2000 Winner
KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa
Impumelelo Innovations Award Trust
Impumelelo Innovations Award Trust
South Africa
The Partnership Education Network (PEN) project was conceptualized by its major private sector funder, Billiton Aluminium, in response to repeated requests for funding from more than 800 schools in the Richards Bay region. In order to address this need in a meaningful and practical way, Billiton developed a strategy that could assist with education development in a meaningful manner and derive the maximum benefit from the funds allocated for social investment.

As a partnership between the Zululand Chamber of Business Foundation (ZCBF), the regional education department and the private sector, the project aims to improve the standard of education and teaching at a range of previously disadvantaged schools in the region. This is achieved by a funder adopting one particular school, and providing a variety of interventions, from improvements to facilities, to the development of governing bodies and training of teachers and principals.

Assistance is provided over a 12-year period, in an attempt to create an uninterrupted chain of intervention in the pupils' school career. Assistance focuses on the physical needs of the school, such as buildings, computers or science equipment, and those of the learners, such as books, stationery, life-skills training and career guidance. In addition, emphasis is placed on teacher upgrading through training in computer skills, HIV/Aids awareness programmes, sport administration and management. Interventions also target the school governing bodies, and the development of business plans.

The project targets approximately 38 schools, and includes pre-schools, primary and secondary schools. The project currently benefits around 32 000 scholars. The progress of each pupil at PEN schools is individually monitored through an extensive database kept by the ZCBF, and includes details of each school, each teacher and each intervention.

One of the specific objectives of the project is to improve the matric pass rate of the participating schools from a starting point of 38% to a rate of 80% at the end of the 12 years. To date the project has had a positive impact in this regard, with the PEN High Schools showing an average pass of 62% in 1999; the average pass-rate for the province being 51%, and the average pass-rate for the Empangeni region being 43%.

"The aim of the PEN project is to provide the support structures necessary for education transformation to take place and to facilitate change within the education department" CBF Annual Report 1999 / 2000

Innovation: The notion of twinning private sector sponsorship to the holistic development of a schooling cycle over a 12-year period. Focusing on the development of the school governing bodies, and the development of business plans for the schools.
Poverty impact: The tangible outcomes of the project, such as improved education and higher pass rates, have a massive impact on the future of the learners, and their opportunities to become economically active adults. The 38 participating schools now all have running water, which they previously did not have. At the end of 1999, the overall matric pass rate in the Empangeni area was 43% and the pass rate at PEN schools was 62%. 4 of the top 20 schools in the region were PEN schools. A comprehensive database keeps track of the progress of each of the 32 172 learners involved in the programme.
Replication: In the event of committed sponsors being found the project can be replicated in other previously disadvantaged areas. The provincial Department of Education approached the ZBCF to manage a duplication of this project on a larger scale, pending on an agreement with a major sponsor.
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