Minister of Basic Education, Angelina Motshekga

South Africa, 18 September 2023: A staggering 57% of South African children in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) phase of their education are not on track for cognitive and/or physical development. To help change children’s futures, the Sanlam Foundation has  redesigned its education strategy and launched its Education Programme, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education to focus on ECD and primary school education in selected schools across four provinces. Pipeline 2 of the programme will focus on interventions in secondary schools. The Minister of Basic Education, Angelina Motshekga, together with the Sanlam Foundation will introduce the new programme at Sanlam’s Office on 19 September.

Nozizwe Vundla, Head of the Sanlam Foundation, says, “Targeted education interventions are the only way to change the course of this country. Every child has the right to the best possible educational start. To begin with, our programme will reach 8408 learners and 40 teachers across 20 ECD centres and 14 primary schools in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Gauteng. We’ll refine and scale as we start receiving the monitoring and evaluation data. This is a long-term commitment, through a pipeline approach, from ECD to primary and secondary school.

“In South Africa, we have the three horsemen of the apocalypse – unemployment, inequality, and poverty. It’s not just joblessness, it’s unemployability that plagues us. Young people don’t have the basics of numeracy and literacy needed to be employable, or to run their own businesses. About two million children start grade R each year. Only one million of these children matriculate. ECD interventions are instrumental in addressing this in a sustainable way.”

A holistic approach

The programme will roll out in quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools and ECD centres that have met rigorous selection and needs-analysis criteria. The shift to focus on a child’s earliest years of development is where Sanlam believes it can make maximal impact. Vundla adds, “Appropriate cognitive stimulation, nutrition, care, and health services during a child’s early years are linked to enhanced academic performance, lower repetition and dropout rates, reductions in juvenile crime rates, reduced remedial education costs and improved economic and social productivity in adulthood. Our holistic approach will cover STEM, home language literacy, remedial support, robotics (to begin with, in the Western Cape and Gauteng provinces), and a nutrition element.

“We are proud to be partnering with the Minister of Basic Education and her department on this. We are committed to supporting their efforts. We believe this programme will change children’s lives for the long-term. Together, we have the might, and the deep shared passion and commitment to make a real, immediate, and lasting difference.”

The Sanlam Foundation Education Programme partners with world-class implementation experts to foster strong foundational skills. This work is anchored by a theory of change and measurable outcomes to ensure it is data and feedback-driven.

Minister Motshekga says, “We are indeed privileged to work in collaboration and partnership with Sanlam, a proudly South African company with well-recorded success in nation building in South Africa and other countries. The National Development Plan which is the cornerstone of Government policy specifies that effective and sustained partnerships between Government and the private sector go a long way towards the national vision of an improved basic education system. We highly appreciate that Sanlam has joined hands with us and recognizes the huge task faced by the Department towards achieving our main objective of improving learning outcomes at every phase. We are therefore proud to be part of the launch of the Sanlam Foundation Education Programme today, which aims at among others, to ensure that our children between 3 and 9 years old receive quality foundation skills that will equip and nurture them for a brighter future ahead.”

The Thrive by Five report found that in a class of 20 children starting grade R, just 8 are on track to start their formal education with the right foundations in place.  The Sanlam Foundation Education Programme will focus on teacher and principal training to ensure robust numeracy and literacy skills are embedded in learners early on. This is a key part of Sanlam’s mission to empower all Africans to be financially confident, secure, and literate.

Supporting teachers is a major part of Sanlam’s mission, which is why the group is also sponsoring the National Teachers Excellence Awards in November.

Vundla concludes, “We are so excited to launch our programme in partnership with the Minister and her department. As a group, our north star is fostering financial inclusion to empower people to live confidently. This focus on ECD is a crucial means of delivering on our purpose and promise.”