Education gets support to benefit the Eastern Cape communities.
The National Development Plan lists increased quality of education as one of its “enabling milestones”, signalling the paramount importance of education to individual and national prosperity and success. Unfortunately, despite spending six percent of gross domestic product on education—17 percent of total government expenditure—South Africa still struggles to provide sufficient throughput of pupils with skills adequate to modern-day needs.
It is widely recognised that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects are of particular importance, particularly as the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes hold. But these are just the subjects that our school system is particularly poor at teaching, it seems. Very low percentages of matric students graduate in these subjects, thus starving the economy of the skills it needs.
“The disappointing throughput of STEM students, who are essential to an industry like ours, is something that calls out for action. That’s why much of PPC’s corporate social investment is focused on education generally, and STEM subjects in particular,” says Kobie Botha, Acting Plant Manager, PPC Coastal Region.
Bearing this in mind, it comes as no surprise that PPC Coastal Region participated in the nationwide PPC initiative to provide mobile science labs to schools in the communities in which its facilities exist. The initiative has been running for three years and has already reached more than 20 000 learners in 20 schools. PPC Coastal Region was involved in the donation of mobile labs to the Molly Blackburn High School in Uitenhage and Newell High in Port Elizabeth.
The labs are PPC’s way of rewarding local for buying local, they contain everything that teachers and pupils need to teach and learn various aspects of science. It contains all the chemicals, equipment and other teaching aids needed, as well as a full IT system provided by the programme’s national partner, Diebold Nixdorf. The IT system contains all the software teachers need to do their work, and also contains resources for pupils to study further, including past exam papers. It also has a full audio-visual capability, including surround sound, for the screening of videos to enhance the learning experience.
“Because it can be pushed from classroom to classroom, there is no need for an expensive dedicated science lab,” says Botha “The great thing about an intervention like this is that the impact is immediate. One school in Hammanskraal in Gauteng, doubled its pass rate in science in the first year, and it now stands at 83 percent—there’s no reason why similar results could not be achieved here in the Eastern Cape.”
PPC Coastal Region is also involved in an ongoing project at Klipplaats, near to its Mount Stuart mine, to upgrade the area’s schools. It has committed R200 000 a year for five years to the project. The Thembelesizwe crèche has received a consignment of educational toys, and now the team is upgrading essential infrastructure at the schools. Each school now has three water tanks, and efforts are being made to repair the borehole so that proper flush toilets can be provided.
At the same time, PPC is also supporting a scheme whereby a group of seven local women are manufacturing uniforms for the schools. New overlockers have been procured, and training is being given to help them improve the quality. The group has also been given the contract to supply overalls for the local municipality.
“An investment in education is an investment in the future of any community,” Botha says. “PPC Coastal is proud to be investing in the communities in which it operates to demonstrate how it goes beyond being just a cement manufacturer, strengthening the welfare of communities in which it does business is counts high on its priorities.”