Jacques Visser, YahClick Project Manager at Vox Telecom, has today said that the rollout of South Africa’s first Ka-band broadband satellite service is “progressing well”.

 

The country’s first Ka-band satellite service, YahClick, was launched by telecommunications group Vox Telecom in conjunction with Abu Dhabi-based Yahsat. Ka-band satellites transmit many highly focused, overlapping ‘spot beams’, each covering a relatively small area, which allows for access to greater bandwidth at a lower cost.

 

Although the service is expected to provide reliable backup for urban broadband users who may occasionally lose transmission due to cable theft or loss of signal, Vox Telecom’s first objective is to provide much-needed primary high-speed connections to un-serviced and rural businesses and communities.

 

“66% of our @lantic customers live in isolated areas, which led us to believe that there is a significant, untapped market for more affordable and diverse Internet services in rural communities,” Visser has said.

Visser went on to say that several users are already enjoying the benefits of the service. “Installations began earlier this month, and we’ve received extremely positive feedback,” he stated. “We expect to install at full capacity within the next few months.”

 

Vox Telecom has previously announced that the YahClick service will comprise of a range of packages, starting with a basic plan priced at under R200 per month, to more comprehensive business packages that allow for faster downloads and greater data usage. Hundreds of installation service providers are being trained and placed across outlying areas of the country to ensure that users have access to localised after-sales care and technical support.

 

“This is a major milestone for South Africa and we’re looking forward to changing the South African broadband landscape,” Visser concluded.

 

YahClick is available through @lantic, Vox Telecom and official reseller channels.

When call centres moved into the cloud and starting making use of hosted contact centre solutions, agents began moving out of offices – a phenomenon known by some as “homeshoring”. According to Gartner Research, 1 out of every 10 international call centres is likely to shift at least partly to home-based agents.

There can be no doubt that using “homeshoring” is the cheapest option. Just avoiding the cost of renting floor space represents a significant saving, and some home-based agents pay for or provide their own equipment, including computers and telephones. It also affords companies the opportunity to custom design their service offering – customers can make calls to agents who speak exactly the same language, have the same culture and who literally live in the same area.

Needless to say, this opens up opportunities for people who wish to work from home and can potentially boost employment in areas where there are no major industries to support local residents – not to mention that it’s a much greener option than having hundreds of employees commuting to work every day.

After all – work is an activity, not a location. There is literally no competitive advantage to leasing property or owning IT assets. Having employees coming into an office entitles them to lunch breaks and tea breaks…not to mention that even the most disciplined of us occasionally arrive late, which means that staff actually have the potential to spend more time on the phone at home than they do at the office. Add to that the cost of fixed assets such as chairs and desks, and you’re instantly stuck with (unnecessary) overheads.

Many South African companies are sceptical though. Although the temptation to run personal errands and the distractions of children and domestic duties aren’t as easily controlled, there are ways of minimising the risk.

I don’t suggest that call centre owners take their cue from their American counterparts  where recruiters rule out any potential agent who has a dog, a baby or a noisy houseguest that could cause interruptions, and periodically listen in on calls to keep agents in check. (I was horrified to learn that some companies even go so far as to spy on their home-based agents via webcams!).

The truth of the matter is that not everybody – or every home – is suited to call centre work and that the most important preventative measure maybe not to skimp on staff costs – hiring highly trained, highly experienced and self-motivated agents (in other words, a mature workforce) will go a long way when it comes to making a success of the homeshoring model.

My personal view is that call centers are becoming more results-driven, both with quality and performance. This (systematic performance and quality of interaction) can easily be managed and measured through reporting. The rest is up to the agents themselves. This doesn’t mean that staff won’t have support. Even with agents working from home, managers can coach and train struggling staff members remotely as effectively (and unobtrusively) as they would if they were in the same room.

There is literally no valid reason to dismiss the possibility of homeshoring. The technology platform already exists – systems could be up and running within a matter of days. Ultimately the only barriers to adopting are related to people management. By engaging with the right hosted technology partner that can manage the technology and necessary monitoring tools, call centre managers willing to try the new model can focus on the core of their business: taking care of customers. 

As businesses drive towards greater centralisation of property assets and distribution efficiencies, the need for more stringent fire protection engineering increases significantly.  However, a review of recent fire catastrophes and business shutdowns by authorities due to non-compliance with fire regulations suggests that many businesses – small and large – are ill-prepared when it comes to preventing an unexpected and potentially devastating fire, let alone managing the consequences thereof.  

David Vines, Managing Consultant at Aon South Africa’s Risk Control and Engineering unit says that hazards such as fire can be addressed and mitigated by having thorough fire protection plans in place.    

“Fire is often an underestimated risk, particularly in South Africa and yet we have a number of fire-prone areas such as large industrial sites and warehousing complexes which potentially pose conflagration risks due to the exposure of closely situated site buildings. We’re seeing a growing trend whereby businesses are centralising their distribution points or hubs as part of a cost-saving or streamlining process in supply chain management.  This in turn means the fire risk is so much greater as much larger volumes of stock and equipment are housed in one area.  The risk also increases incrementally by having all their ‘eggs in one basket’ syndrome, so to speak.   

“A fire can wreak havoc on business operations and the costs arising out of the loss of assets and business interruption can amount to millions of Rand in damages.  This does not even begin to take into consideration the risks to human life and liabilities that can arise,” says David.  Failure to comply with the statutory requirements and codes of practice for fire protection can leave business stakeholders in severe financial crisis and with potential legal implications.  

“By asking the right questions, exploring options, and carefully considering the ‘what ifs’ of existing and future requirements, no matter how seemingly unlikely, a professional risk consultant is able to produce safe and technologically-efficient system solutions based on proven expertise.  When it comes to fire engineering, services may include, but are not limited to, fire protection, suppression and fire alarm system evaluation and design.  Aon Global fire protection engineers are also highly experienced in smoke hazard analysis by utilising computer-based programmes that analyse fire and smoke behaviour.  

“Having a practical knowledge of building codes, fire codes as promoted by the National Fire Protection Association, Factory Mutual, Automatic Sprinkler Inspection Bureau and SANS sprinkler rules; as well as knowledge of construction materials, manufacturing processes and storage practices and the relevant hazards involved therein, along with insurance industry best practices, benefits our clients in numerous ways throughout the completion of any fire engineering project,” explains David.  

“The cost of non-compliance with fire protection rules is massive when one considers the financial repercussions and potential reputational damage if there was a loss of life – think in terms of losing a major client or business as a result, lost profits and operational delays.  Businesses ignore fire safety standards at their own peril,” explains David.

And finally, an experienced broker’s advice is invaluable when it comes to having the right insurance covers in place to cover your business for worst case scenarios, both in terms of assets and business interruption. “Underinsurance should be avoided at all costs otherwise the business stakeholders could find that the law of average will see them paid out significantly less than what the business premises and insured equipment is actually worth.  It is recommended to have an independent professional valuation carried out on buildings, plant and machinery at least every three years, with plant and machinery being considered the most important due to the impact of fluctuating exchange rates and inflationary pressures on replacement costs,” concludes David.

Who would have thought just a couple of years ago that an advertising campaign run only on digital media, including the ‘social’ channels of Facebook and Twitter, would produce phenomenal results? 

 

A recent Ocean Basket campaign certainly did. Based on offering a crayfish top-up for just R39, the advertising appeared on various website banners, on Google Advertising, Facebook and an ‘accelerated advertising network’. The two social media platforms carried competitions related to crayfish and other seafood, as well as regular status updates.

 

The existing ‘Fancy that’ creative platform was tailored for digital application, with an irresistible offer of ‘Crayfish top-up onlee 39 bucks’, with the proviso “Available with any main meal while stocks last” in some of the ads. 

 

Since the campaign only ran for just four weeks,the results were astonishing. Sales of crayfish reached over 7 000 in four days and 50 000 in four weeks! Since the target was to sell 40 000 in eight weeks, 125% of target was achieved in half the time. 

 

While this campaign undoubtedly underlines the power of digital marketing, it also proves the unwavering popularity of Ocean Basket in terms of sheer value for money – great product, backed by outstanding service, at seriously affordable prices. Fancy that!

There is a fundamental shift occurring in the technology industry. Household name brands are being usurped by start-ups. End users are dictating development. Companies are finding themselves struggling to compete in markets that they’ve dominated for decades. And most importantly – technologists are no longer driving the technology. Consumers are. Even in the business to the business space, technologists will find that their clients are concerned with tailoring their business practices to meet the needs of their end users. As a result, the nature of the so-called “business app” is changing.

 

There are 5 key imperatives that technologists have to cater to if they hope to succeed in the marketplace today.

 

#1 Cloud

Next-generation applications are going to be deployed on-premise, cloud and hybrid. It’s a well-known fact that cloud-base solutions are growing at a faster rate than on-premise solutions. Think of the implications for development. Very few languages will fit all three, particularly with Big Data thrown into the equation. And how will one scale up an application to be resilient when there are outages (seeing as how downtime is not an option)?

 

Next-generation business apps will have to support elasticity on demand and it will be impossible to build them from scratch. Software developers of the future will compose their applications through mash-ups, consuming other people’s services and software in order to be a success.

 

#2 Mobile

 

Modern applications are taking a mobile first approach. About half of the world’s population are already carrying handsets capable of rich, mobile commerce. Mobile devices are becoming computers in their own right and with that, ability to use location, motion and context to market to customers has been unlocked. There is a race to push out applications as a competitive tool to improve relationships. Retailers want to be able to detect their customers when they enter a shopping mall, send them marketing messages via SMS, equip them with the means to pay on the spot via their mobile, and then tweet about the experience…after which sentiment analysis surrounding their twitter activity should be conducted. Next-generation business applications have to cater to the mobile market across any device, any language, any platform.

 

#3 Big Data

 

The volume of digital data has grown to 2.7 ZB in 2012 up 48% from 2011, and is heading towards 8ZB by 2015. More data is being created and stored than ever before…and thus far, companies do not know what to do with it. That is going to change soon as more and more companies are exploiting big data to generate new revenue sources. Retailers, according to IDC, using big data to the fullest, could increase operating margins by 60%. Business applications of the future have to offer a single entry point to all sources of big data, with real-time analytics. Companies that can automate decision-making by slicing and dicing the overwhelming volume of information will ultimately conquer the market.

 

#4 Social Media

 

Approximately 40% of users access social media from their mobile devices and 80% of all mobile apps developed will integrate with social network services. We tend to forget though that the social media platforms that we’re seeing are still early entries to the market – Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Instagram are all in their infancy. Social media, however, remains at the heart of new applications that are being developed. People are conducting sentiment analysis on social media and are trading based on sentiments found in twitter! How do you connect to your customers and exploit the data in a comprehensive way? Modern apps must plan for social network analysis and tracking if they hope to be successful.

 

#5 Ecosystems

 

The ecosystems that support technology are becoming as important as the technology itself. Time-constrained ISVs will primarily chose their paths based on the popularity of a platform with users, and the ones who will succeed will be the ones that are driven by the entire ecosystem. Mash-ups and partnerships will spawn new ecosystems, discover resellers in new countries and markets. The future will see the formation of joint projects and collaborative forums that can propel companies forward faster than ever before.

 

Businesses hoping to reach their target markets will need greater access to information and the ability to speak to their customers across a variety of technologies. Technologists of the future have to start changing the way they approach business applications today if they want to continue doing business tomorrow.

The value of small business empowerment

The development and growth of small, micro and medium enterprises (SMME) is essential for the alleviation of the current unemployment crisis.  This concept is accepted worldwide. However, knowing that something is the right thing to do and actually doing the right thing are two very different notions, especially in the corporate world. 

Although most companies are started with profit making in mind, it is important to remember where one started and, once a success has been made of your enterprise, to assist those smaller businesses as much as possible. When Phase 2 Computers was started in 2001, my partners and I had no start-up capital and had to take a R150 000 loan on 14 days repayment terms just to purchase stock. As a small business, Phase 2 was greatly assisted by the suppliers that it did business with; suppliers gave extended terms for payment, marketing assistance was received through the supply of signage, assistance was given with regards to Phase 2’s shop-fitting, while product training and back-up support was also received. 

Yet, despite the critical importance of small businesses, many companies remain ‘ín it for themselves’ – whether it be suppliers not allowing small businesses terms for payment or clients not making payment for work delivered on, this is a mind-set which needs to change. However, although there is a need for all able businesses to assist in small business development, a balance is absolutely critical. One needs to be aware of the fact that, in certain cases, giving too much leniency or assistance can put ones’ own business at risk. There needs to be a balance between giving back by helping small businesses in their growth and protecting your own business’ interests – operation at the middle of the spectrum and not at either extreme is essential. 

Some businesses may in fact actually be negatively affecting the growth of small businesses – whether knowingly or without realising that they are doing so. In the IT industry, for example, Phase 2 has distributors that it purchases products from in order to resell to the end users in its target market. However, some time ago, these distributors sold directly to the target market, cutting Phase 2 out of the loop and therefore negatively affected business in a severe way. 

When considering whether or not small business development is of value, perhaps it is worth pointing out the incredibly difficult economic environment all business owners face. Although Government is passionate about small business development, non-BEE companies are often left out of the loop when it comes to benefitting from this passion.  In addition to this, banks are quick to penalise small companies, pulling the rug out from under their feet when they need the banks’ assistance the most and, in light of the current economic crisis, this is crippling. Had Phase 2 not been assisted by those companies that it did business with, who knows where the company would be today; with the limited help supplied by Government and the lack of assistance from the banks, it is only really business itself that can help small businesses in their growth. 

The benefits of assisting small businesses are endless. Aside from the possible enterprise development points one can gain from such activity, being a part of assisting another person in making a success of their business, and in turn for them to be able to create employment opportunities is benefit enough. In addition, through assisting small businesses, close relationships can be built based on mutual trust and respect, resulting in a more amicable working environment for all involved. It is also, in many cases, much easier to work with small businesses as this usually involves a more personal relationship with the business, where one is often dealing with the managing director or CEO of the company. There is also less corporate red-tape to navigate your way through. 

There are many ways in which to empower small businesses. Perhaps the most obvious form of empowerment is in the financial realm. For example, when big corporate suppliers provide small companies with price assistance when these small companies purchase goods from them for re-sale, this allows the small companies to make a better profit margin on the resale of those goods. Although this doesn’t necessarily apply to a great extent in the IT industry, mentorship can also be an invaluable tool in small business empowerment.  

As a grateful once-small-business, Phase 2 considers small business development a necessity and it has become part of its company ethos. Phase 2 endeavours to assist small businesses through donations, such as supplying computer equipment to small start-up businesses free of charge and by offering add on services such as free delivery. Phase 2 is also happy to take on any and all clients without having a preferential customer policy in place. 

The benefits which Phase 2 endeavours to provide all companies which it works with, especially the small businesses,  are; a personal touch, a strong focus on service delivery, flexible terms and conditions and personal relationships while operating under the motto of ‘small enough to care, big enough to deliver’. If all businesses could provide such and other forms of assistance to small businesses, together a better economy and the reduction of unemployment can be achieved.

23 July 2012, Cape Town – Volatile organic compounds (VOC), found in paint, have often been seen as one of the contributors to the pollution of the environment. As an important component within numerous industries such as construction, design and décor, it has been essential for paint manufacturers to manufacture paints with little to no impact on the environment. 

 

Being committed to implementing environmentally considerate practices, Plascon will be showcasing their Professional Evolution range at the Interbuild Exhibition from 15 to 18 August at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.

 

For interior, residential and commercial application use, Professional Evolution is a VOC and solvent free paint. The range is free of Ammonia, Formaldehyde, APEO’s (Alkylphenol Ethoxylates) and CIT’s (Chloroisothiazolinones) and is endorsed by the Green Building Council of South Africa and Ecospecifier verified. 

 

Says brand manger, Megan Kronberger, “Evolution is a great product as it will deliver the same product performance of a Plascon premium paint, but offers a solvent free and zero VOC green solution. Giving you peace of mind when making your paint selection.”

 

The Professional Evolution range has a range of products to offer including a plaster primer, wall and ceiling coats with a premium satin, matt and super matt finish, as well as premium water-based gloss products. The Professional Evolution range is tinted on a made-to-order basis using unique glycol and solvent free colourant technology.

 

For Plascon and Professional Evolution, green isn’t just a colour. 

 

For more information, visit www.plascon.co.za or www.plascontrade.co.za

Why we should be recycling our paper

Paper recycling rates in South Africa increased to nearly 60% in 2011. This equates to the annual recovery of over a million tonnes of paper.

 

Despite increased awareness, large amounts of recoverable paper and board packaging are still unnecessarily dumped in landfill sites.

 

“Sadly only 5% of homes actively recycle their paper and board,” says Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (PRASA) operations director Ursula Henneberry.

 

National Recycling Day on Friday, 14 September, is the perfect opportunity for South Africans to take a more active role in recycling, in the home and at the workplace.

 

The simplest way to green our future

Paper, one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable products, is made from farmed trees, just as your morning cereal was made from farmed wheat or corn. Plantation trees help to absorb carbon dioxide from and release life-giving oxygen into the atmosphere.

 

Trees, and thus paper and wood products, store this carbon as solid matter. By recycling paper, we can ensure that this carbon is kept out of the atmosphere for longer. Paper recycling is one of the simplest ways that we can green our future.

 

“If we do not recycle, paper will rot among other rubbish and emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” says Henneberry.

 

A tonne of recycled paper can save up to three cubic metres of landfill space and subsequently reduce transport costs for local municipalities.

 

By recycling paper, milk and juice cartons, glass, aluminium and plastic, we contribute to less pollution and litter, and create a healthier, greener and cleaner society.

 

Top tips for aspiring recyclers

·         Do your research and find out which companies collect paper in your area. Visit www.mywaste.co.za for these details.

·         Do not mix your paper with other recyclables.

·         Do not let your paper get wet or soiled by other rubbish. Keep it under cover or in a closed plastic container.

·         Get to know what is recyclable and what is not. The following paper types cannot be recycled:

o   Foil gift wrapping and foiled lined boxes

o   Wax coated or laminated boxes such as frozen food boxes

o   Empty cement and dog food bags

o   Disposable nappies

o   Carbon paper

o   Sticky notes

·         Remember that juice, milk and custard cartons ARE recyclable. Simply rinse, flatten and place with your paper recycling.

·         Newspapers are best recycled within three months.

·         If you don’t have a formal recycling collection service or drop-off depot in your neighbourhood, consider putting your recyclables in clear plastic bags so that the people who sort through the piles of refuse on collection day are afforded some dignity by not having to trawl through your week’s household waste.

 

Give paper a new lease on life

Paper can be recycled up to seven times. Some virgin or new wood fibre is required to make recycled paper possible in the first place and is always needed to keep the global fibre cycle going. But have you ever wondered where recyclable paper goes or what it becomes?

·         Corrugated boxes and magazines = new corrugated boxes

·         Newspapers, magazines = newspapers

·         Office paper, newspapers, printer offcuts = tissue products, kitchen and industrial paper towelling

·         Office paper, corrugated boxes, printer offcuts, cardboard trims = cereal boxes, soap cartons

·         Newspaper, cardboard trims = moulded paper products such as egg boxes.

·         Milk and juice cartons = board paper.

 

Next time you open your grocery cupboard or medicine cabinet, think about the role that paper plays in your life in its various and versatile forms.

 

Keep in touch with PRASA on Twitter by following @PaperRocks_SA or visiting www.prasa.co.za or www.thepaperstory.co.za

TeleMasters is a company that likes a challenge. It has to, says head of enterprise Riaan Pietersen, because when delivering voice over IP telephony solutions, the situation on the ground is rarely straightforward, almost always complex and often downright scary. That’s what the company experienced when it engaged with real estate agency Rawsons to provide communications services to two busy offices, located in Strand and Somerset West in the Western Cape; however, despite multiple difficulties, it has succeeded in delivering quality services where others have feared to tread.

 

Johann van der Merwe, principal of the two Rawsons franchises, explains why it sought TeleMasters’ assistance: “We were experiencing frustrations which included high costs and poor service availability, especially at the Somerset West location where no phone lines were available. We also had a traditional PBX which was not suitable for the communication requirements of the business.”

 

Pietersen says establishing communications where there is no infrastructure is always a challenge, as there are dependencies on third party suppliers. “We were able to get a single ADSL line in at relatively short notice; however, with 15 people in the office, the limited connectivity was severely pressurized, carrying all data as well as VoIP calls.”

 

Nevertheless, even when ‘decent’ connectivity was finally established weeks later, problems persisted. That came down to the PBX to which van der Merwe has referred. However, at this stage, the issues were still hidden, providing an opportunity for TeleMasters to bring its expertise to bear.

 

“We got our top technicians down from Johannesburg to analyse everything to identify why issues such as dropped calls were still happening. What we discovered was that of the 8 ports on the PBX, 4 were dead,” Pietersen says.

 

Despite these issues, and what Pietersen cheerfully refers to as ‘a lot of challenges that had us gritting our teeth for months’, TeleMasters showed its mettle by systematically identifying and solving every challenge. “Telephony is critical to every business. When it doesn’t ‘just work’, people get upset, and rightly so. However, the underlying systems are complex, sometimes obsolete and almost always capricious. Getting it to work properly often requires some patience and certainly perseverance – but that’s what we’re here for.”

 

As a consequence of its commitment to working with clients like Rawsons despite what most other service providers might consider insurmountable or intractable problems, the end result is a very happy customer. As van der Merwe attests: “TeleMasters has deployed its Voice-over-Network solution along with its Virtual PBX. This has resolved our challenges and enhanced the performance of our communication solutions to the point that the voice quality is of a higher standard.”

 

And he reserves special praise for the lengths to which TeleMasters is prepared to go to satisfy its clients: “The service is of a superior standard. I’d recommend this solution [Voice-Over-Network and Virtual PBX] to any serious businessperson who is looking to improve the quality and performance of their telephony with a future-proofed technology.” 

The news has been full of the school book disaster in Limpopo, and it is indeed a disaster. We constantly hear of the intransigence of SADTU and the aberrant behaviour of principals and teachers. We don’t understand why after 18 years of democracy there has been so little progress in Governments ability to improve the status of our schools as places of learning. And we are often told that the quality of our maths and science education is the worst in the world. So, is there any hope for education in SA?

Sadly, but it is to be expected, we hardly ever hear of the success stories. And there are hundreds of them. We have a very determined NGO sector in this country, it is estimated that out of approximately 100,000 NGO’s there are 10,000 that have education as their primary focus.

Here is one such success story of how a rural school was transformed and how it impacted the wider community.

By Nadia Rossouw

Since 2008 Phumzile Langa has been the principal at Khanyisa Secondary School, located in Montebello in the remote area of Ndwedwe in KwaZulu-Natal. She was a teacher for 13 years before being appointed in this, her first principal role. When she joined the school as principal, it had a matric pass rate of only 17% compared to last year’s success of 70%.

In her four and a half years as principal, Langa has drastically improved Khanyisa’s matric pass rate, implemented management systems and enhanced the effective functioning of various working relationships. She has developed the school management team and governing body, as well as increasing parental involvement in the school by initiating parent-learner-teacher meetings to discuss issues and determine solutions.

Langa is also proud of the extra Grade 12 tuition and assessment she has introduced, offering extra lessons and additional tests outside of the normal teaching hours and during the school holidays. As most learners walk six to ten kilometres to get to school, she has encouraged matric parents to allow their Grade 12 children to rent rooms with local community members to allow them to be near to the school so as to attend the extra classes. A structured revision timetable before exams also ensures that all teachers get enough time to revise with their learners.

Being a rural school, the location is a challenge for both learners and staff. Miss Langa drives 180 kilometres each day to get to her 13 classroom, 13 staff and 315 pupils for an 8am assembly. Of the ten-strong teaching body, six are permanent – which includes the principal and two Heads of Department – and four are temporary. There is also an administrative clerk as well as a security guard and a cook. Besides Miss Langa, the others rent low-cost accommodation from community members so they too can live close to the school to make it easier to conduct extra lessons in the early mornings and evenings.

Following assembly for the school as a whole, the principal has implemented morning registration to check absenteeism, school uniform compliance and late coming of both learners and teachers. When classes begin, she prioritises her daily commitments with the help of her admin assistant. These include documents to be prepared, calls to be made and a lot of paperwork for submissions to the district office or Department of Education. She has also arranged for a different member of the community to come in each day to assist with forms, testimonials or translating of letters.

The current management challenges for Khanyisa Secondary School are a lack of funding due to low learner enrolment resulting in Khanyisa operating on limited funds even though the needs of the school are great. This makes budgeting a huge challenge. Lack of teacher consistency is another major concern as annual staff turnover is high because educators move to schools in urban areas to be nearer to their homes and families.

“The process of recruiting new teachers and renewing contracts takes time and so it has become part of our school culture that we start a new academic year with an incomplete staff contingent. Temporary educators are also often under qualified and thus it becomes my task, on top of my responsibilities as a principal, to train them,” says Miss Langa.

Each day principal Langa also ensures that she has contact with one or two learner groups. She teaches English and life skills from Grade 8 to 12 as well as supervising extra matric lessons at the end of the day. And because Khanyisa is a small school with only a few school management team members, she operates an open door policy where all ten teachers can come to her to discuss matters involving teaching and learning, learner welfare and other urgent issues.

“I am very lucky to have a school governing body who represent the parents and are dedicated to their responsibilities. They keep me informed of the important things in the community that might have an impact on the school. I also believe that teachers feel comfortable to discuss any challenges they encounter and to express their need for development. We also network with teachers from our high-performing neighbouring school.”

Khanyisa also faces challenges of many rural communities such as high levels of illiteracy, poverty and social deprivation. Despite their poor socio-economic backgrounds and the associated impact on the learners, Miss Langa says that there is something unique about their school and that the levels of misbehaviour among pupils is very low, and that the teachers also honour their lessons and work as a team.

Her vision is to make a difference in the lives of learners and colleagues under her care. Langa wishes to produce learners who are able to uplift not only their own lives, but their communities as well, thus giving back and ensuring sustainable community development.

How did she do this?

Langa was one of 50 school principals selected to take part in the 2009 pilot of the Principals Management Development Programme (PMDP), an eight-month development programme to equip school principals with practical skills and individual coaching to enhance their school management outputs while building leadership capabilities.

Says Langa, “I would recommend inclusion of other school management team members in the PMDP skills development and management training opportunities that have been available to principals in KwaZulu-Natal.”

School leadership is key to creating sustainable community development

Notes:

The Principal Management Development Programme (PMDP) addresses the need for upskilling management competencies with rapid skills development for both primary and secondary school principals as well as for district or ward managers who work closely with these schools. PMDP was designed by a public-private partnership consisting of the Department of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, PricewaterhouseCoopers and performance improvement organisation Performance Solutions Africa (PSA).

Following the success of the KZN pilot in 2009, KZN extended this school management skills development programme to 1,200 schools over three years from mid 2010. From 2009 to 2011 there was an annual average improvement in matric pass rates of 7.4% which is well above the provincial average.

A further 600 schools are planned in the near future. The desire is to deliver PMDP nationally to address educational challenges and raise school management standards and pass rate levels across all provinces. Discussions are underway with the Eastern Cape, Free State, North West and Mpumalanga in this regard.

From SA – the Good News – some bald stats on education (Steuart Pennington was asked to write this for a Business publication).

Last year approx 580,000 students wrote matric, up from about 380,000 four years ago. This is roughly half the students that enter first grade (approx 1,000,000). The pass rate was 71% or approx 411,000 students. About 23% of those that have passed achieve matric exemption and the opportunity to enter university, i.e. approx 94,700 students. That means approx 485,000 matriculating students don’t have any hope of going to university. At university the first year drop out rate is approx 60% (this varies enormously between universities)

We have 23 universities in SA. There are 20,000 globally. We have five ranked in the top 700 (3.5 %) and 10 ranked in the top 1400 (7%). The remainder are all ranked in the top 10,000 universities globally, we have none in the bottom 10,000.

We have a couple of structural problems:

The first is the obsession with university and the reluctance to attend technicons/university colleges. In Germany for example about 20% of matriculants go onto university and 80% onto some form of technical education. In SA it is the other way around.

The second is with secondary schooling. We have approx 7,000 secondary schools and 23,000 primary schools. The Joint Education Trust (JET) reckons that 80% are dysfunctional as places of learning. Dysfunctionality relates to the regulatory environment, how well the school is managed; the infrastructural environment, how well the school is resourced; and the instructional environment, how well learning takes place. It is estimated that 5% of our schools are world class, 15% are competent and the balance dysfunctional. Currently there are 3,000 schools with no access to electricity, 800 with no class rooms and about 1,500 with no sanitation or fresh water

Thirdly, our maths and science ranking in the Global Competitiveness Report is at 138/142. However our business schools rank 13/142. For tertiary education enrolment we rank 93/142.

Having said that, there is extraordinary transformation taking place in our universities. At UCT 50% of business science students who graduate are roughly evenly divided between black, coloured and Asian, with the class being 50/50 male/female. 10 years ago this class was exclusively white and mostly male. Engineering faculties cannot deal with the demand from black students, and they are succeeding.

Our biggest single challenge remains the ability of school principals to lead, the competence of teachers to teach, the work ethic of teachers to be at school every day and on time, and the militancy of SADTU.

Source: http://www.sagoodnews.co.za/newsletter_archive/education_is_there_any_light_at_the_end_of_the_tunnel_.html

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