Public-private partnership provides a life-line for young learners

This project is a private/public partnership involving DBE and a joint venture between Paarl Media, UTI and Lebone Litho, and has had a 98,4 percent success rate when it comes to the delivery of these workbooks. Since the workbook project was initiated in 2010, more than 1.8 million learners have been reached. On average a 30 percent increase has been recorded in Annual National Assessment (ANA) results across the various grades since the inception of the project. Some would say this can be directly correlated to the delivery of the workbooks. ‘This success definitely marks a milestone towards ensuring that every learner has access to educational material on time, giving them the best chance to learn,’ said Thobela Dikeni, director of business development at Paarl Media. The aim of the workbook project is to provide every learner with four books of worksheets during each academic year– two for numeracy/mathematics and two for literacy/language in their mother tongue. These workbooks are key learning aids that guide learners and educators by unpacking subject matter through reading, writing and numeracy exercises. The content and design of the learning material is suitable for any learning environment and makes the job that much easier for learners and teachers in crowded classrooms. The key challenge faced has been maintaining the database of schools, particularly in rural areas where schools move around and are not fixed entities. The DBE has worked tirelessly to gather information to ensure the successful distribution of the workbooks so that no school is out of reach. Even schools in remote areas are able to receive much-needed material and the data is constantly updated to make sure that it is current. The delivery of the workbooks is a separate project from the delivery of textbooks. ‘Data preparation for this project is done well in advance to ensure that each school gets the right combination of languages for each learners and the anticipated numbers of learners expected for the following year. Possible challenges in the data collection process include taking into account learner migration from rural to urban areas; movement across provinces as well as the merging or closure of schools,’ said Dikeni. Through the efforts of the DBE, and their passionate commitment to this project, children that were previously out of reach are now receiving much needed educational collateral which helps towards the building of core skills at a vital juncture in the education process. ‘My own children use these workbooks and I occasionally sit and work through the workbooks with them. It gives me great pride to know that many other children across the country have access to the same quality learning material. Paarl Media is proud to be a part of the drive to improve literacy and numeracy levels in South Africa,’ said Dikeni. Learners and teachers are not the only ones who have benefitted from this project, more than 5600 people have been employed with a further 2600 new jobs created during the duration of this project. This includes contract staff as well as small to medium enterprises that have supported the distribution process. The workbook project started in 2010 with the aim of printing, binding and distributing the workbooks on behalf of the national Department of Basic Education. During the first year, 24 million workbooks for grades 1 to 6 learners were delivered. Due to the success of this initial delivery, the tender was extended and the size of the project grew to 54 million workbooks. The extension included adding workbooks grades R and 7 – 12. ‘While there are many challenges in the system, the success experienced in this project is encouraging and is what we need to build on for the future of our economy,’ concluded Dikeni