Frustrated with charity? Go into business.

More than 10 years of participation in the Education charity sector and a MSc in International Development has ironically brought me to a point where I am more convinced than ever, that economic and commercial development are the real drivers to alleviating poverty in developing countries. Why I believed that I could be part of a solution from within the sphere of Development Studies, is beyond my understanding, except to admit that my frustration with the sloth-like attitudes towards risk and entrepreneurship in education by the charity sector only became apparent once I began engaging with the organisations and observed their cautious approach to projects. Another admission: my comments form part of a broad brush approach and I know that there are some bold beings in the Education charity sector, but they are unique.

The beauty of blogging allows me the outlet to voice both concern and dismay, sadly this opportunity is a rare luxury to those poorly targeted by the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN more than 15 years ago. 2015 is upon us, and still the state of Education in Sub-Saharan Africa’s rural communities remains disappointing. South Africa, a leading African Country in many aspects of socio, economic and political development is not exempt from this categorisation. While I disagree in part with the conclusions made by Monde Ndandani, her paper on the challenges facing the education system in South Africa highlights the sad state of affairs in SA Education.

Moving on from the legacy of Apartheid will take longer than most South Africans expect, but progress in education has been energised by leaps in technology that allow literacy and numeracy skills to be gained from mobile devices. Despite this, progress in South Africa’s education remains slow (except of course in it’ prison population where this year the SA Correctional Services boasted a Grade 12 pass rate that was higher than the national average). Yes, my comments are now tainted with cynicism, but it’s not due to a lack of seeking to understand. I understand now, 20 years post Apartheid, that the State has done little to gain the competencies required of it to transform the livelihoods of the poor through improving education. I was appalled by the Minister of Basic Educations comment televised live in January this year when she stated that: “there are countries in Africa where children cannot even go to school” – so South Africans experiencing poor learning conditions should count themselves lucky? No, I place little hope in South Africa’s state appointed education leaders. They have failed to demonstrate meaningful progress where it matters most.

I look to business. And apparently so do the parents sending their children to private schools in South Africa, boasting 100% University Entrances (Grade 12+). Does this make me a neo-liberalist? I’m not sure. Are neo-liberalist corrupt by definition? the recent spate of comrades exposed for falsifying education qualifications leaves me confused about how corruption is understood in South African terms. Private schools are big business in South Africa today and it’s easy to understand why. Quality education is in demand, and the State is not supplying.


2 thoughts on “Frustrated with charity? Go into business.

  1. learningideasforlife

    Very insightful piece, young man. I was faced with a very tough questions in Bloemfontein last year when attending a conference: “How do you change a noise into a voice?”. You suggested that blogging “allows” you an “outlet to voice”. This is true.

    We need this voice in the world and we need it in the sphere that you are concerned about – not in only in South Africa.

    Starting a business as a strategy of changing a noise to a voice, is only one step in pursuit of the efficacy you notice is so sorely lacking. Yet, even business face huge complexities, often clouded by a corrupt base toward profits.

    Is there an option somewhere between business and charity?

    1. Manfred McKenzie Post author

      Forgive the late response. In answer to your question, the only middle ground I can think of is a business leader with sound and tested ethical standards.


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