A South African non-profit organisation (NPO) having a distinctive strategy to making improvements to education has received a prestigious international corporate social responsibility award.
The Bellville, Cape-based Symphonia for South Africa earned the Blue Dart Global Corporate Social Responsibility award for social entrepreneurship at a ceremony hosted at Taj Lands End in Mumbai, India.
The accolade was in recognition of the growth and development of a programme called School @ the Centre of Community, which brings about business leaders and school principals together in a co-learning and co-action agreement.
James Eckley, Symphonia’s national projects manager, states that the methodology not only pairs business and education however promotes communities to become a part of their neighborhood schools.
As stated by Symphonia’s website, the project depends on the belief that a number of the social challenges in South Africa are directly related to the breakdown of communities.
“Schools are the centre of communities. We all know pupils are going to do well if communities support them in their education,” says Eckley.
Symphonia, which is focused on impoverished areas, has taken its approaches to 21 schools in Cape Town, 16 in Johannesburg and four in Durban and, says Eckley, the project keeps growing by the week.
Having said that there is certainly quite a distance to go – it is believed that there are approximately 25 000 under-performing schools in South Africa.
Support and motivation
As outlined by Eckley the problems in education and learning is an warning sign that a great many present-day projects are certainly not accomplishing the sought after outcomes for the reason that tremendous challenges principals deal with have demotivated them; consequently they have lost their drive and passion.
For that reason, he suggests, it’s not at all adequate to put principals through training programmes.
As an alternative, the business approach of providing each one with a partner and encircling her or him with an actively involved team works more effectively.
“Symphonia’s method provides the school principal with a feeling of support, ignites leadership within him or her, and promotes resourcefulness,” he says.
In Symphonia’s experience, the most effective individuals to support principals are South African business leaders who are experienced with and equipped to put into action organisational change.
However, the community, too, has a responsibility. “It takes a village to raise a child,” says the old African proverb.
Parents and communities must become involved
It is believed that children spend just 20% of their time in school and the remainder of it within their community. Because of this the NPO urges parents and communities to become involved in their children’s education, as parents, Symphonia maintains, are a child’s primary teachers.
Among the factors Symphonia believes will lead to success are:
- the establishment of a new contract between schools and parents that encourages active participation;
- making a school the hub of a community through community-building sessions and other events;
- the implementation of an SMS system that allows schools to quickly and easily communicate with parents;
- the use of homework diaries to facilitate conversations between parents and teachers;
- and the use of “smart-kids” books to enable parents to become actively involved with homework.
Having said that, the organisation emphasizes that communities ought not to expect to see a quick fix and an understanding that it typically takes somewhere between three and five years to remodel the situation in a school.
Blue Dart and the CSR award
Blue Dart Express, a courier company based in South Asia, is part of the global DHL group.
The company set up the corporate social responsibility (CSR) awards as a method of recognising institutions associated with CSR programmes in various industries.
As reported by Kerrie Brand, events manager for Symphonia, “The awards aim at assessing the extent to which CSR projects have succeeded in integrating with corporate functioning; the responsiveness of these projects to the needs of different stakeholders and the development of innovative models to fulfil social responsibilities.”