Baadaye Agency

Preparing Students for a Sustainable Future

Integrating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors in business and society is becoming increasingly important due to its profound impact on sustainable development and long-term value creation. Experts highlight the need for companies and society to adopt ESG principles to prepare for the future economy and to align with global sustainability goals.

According to PwC, the value of ESG-focused investments is projected to soar to $33.9 trillion by 2026, representing 21.5% of global assets under management, emphasizing the growing importance of sustainability in all sectors (PwC) . As such, educational institutions should not be left behind given their critical role in driving social change and equipping future leaders with the skills needed to address complex environmental and social challenges.

By embedding areas of the education sector that require improvement in ESG strategies and operational plans, such efforts can contribute to cultivating a more inclusive and responsible future workforce. This approach will ensure that students are equipped to navigate and actively contribute to a rapidly changing world.

Bridging Educational Disparities in South Africa

The South African education system is perpetuating inequality three decades after apartheid was abolished, with the poor being hit the hardest. Overcrowded classrooms, falling infrastructure, shortage of teachers, and relatively poor educational outcomes are some of the factors failing many students across the nation. Although schools in affluent areas boast state-of-the-art technology, over a third of primary schools in South Africa can be categorized as “functionally illiterate.”  The disparity is a socio-economic issue that needs to be addressed from the root cause. Corporate engagement can offer tangible solutions by implementing initiatives to catalyze a transformative change that will promote a more equitable and inclusive educational landscape.

Investing in Infrastructure:

One of the most pressing needs is improving school infrastructure for schools in marginalized areas, which lack basic amenities like classrooms and sanitation facilities. By investing in infrastructure, corporations can create conducive learning environments for students.  Construction of new classrooms, renovating existing facilities, and improving sanitation are some of the crucial steps in the push for educational equality. The initiative by Henkel South Africa to give back to the community by building classrooms for early childhood education serves as an example of how corporations can support education in South Africa through infrastructure.

Enhancing Educator Effectiveness:

Teacher quality is a major determinant of student achievement and educational outcomes. However, the shortage of teachers and lack of professional development opportunities in many parts of South Africa hinder educator effectiveness. In addition, digital illiteracy among teachers in underprivileged areas creates a situation where the potential for education technology remains untapped. Local and international businesses can enhance education effectiveness in the country by supporting teacher training and professional development programs. This will help equip educators with up-to-date skills and resources, improving student performance, and narrowing the achievement gap. Funding organizations such as the FEM Education Foundation (FEMEF) are running programs that bring together multiple education-focused organizations to provide the much-needed financial support and mentorship.

Integrating Technology and Promoting Sustainability:

Technology plays a pivotal role in shaping educational experiences. By integrating technology into classrooms and promoting sustainability initiatives, corporates can enhance the overall quality of education in South Africa. This can be achieved through the provision of computers, tablets, and educational software, expanding learning opportunities, and preparing learners for real-world challenges. Community-driven projects such as after-school coding clubs and local tech hubs can aid in bringing technology closer to students. There is also the need to implement initiatives focused on sustainability, such as green energy initiatives and recycling programs that can instill values of environmental responsibility among the students.

Community Engagement and Grassroots Impact:

Corporate-community engagement goes beyond financial investments to include direct impacts on the education system. Active engagement with local communities and stakeholders may include initiatives such as outreach programs, voluntary programs, and strategic partnerships with schools and non-profit organizations. The social franchise SmartStart has been at the forefront of supporting community engagement with grassroots impacts. The franchise focuses on Early Childhood Development (ECD), harnessing the power of community and collaboration to provide a unique national delivery platform that addresses various shortfalls in the country’s education system. These include the shortage of adequately trained and licensed teaching educators, the shortage of quality pre-schools, and the lack of quality early learning programs.

Aligning Efforts Across Sectors:

Finally, the true impact of corporates on the South African educational system can only be achieved by aligning efforts across sectors. Collaborations among the government, businesses, civil society, and the education sector will bring together the expertise and resources needed to tackle educational disparities comprehensively. It is through such efforts that the nation can move closer to realizing its vision of equitable, quality education for all.

While an equitable education system in South Africa may seem elusive, corporates can play a huge role in bringing it to a reality. From investing in infrastructure to supporting educator programs and being active in the community, corporates can help change the narrative and set the path to a more equitable future.