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The importance of investing in Education in South Africa

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Belia Oh Photography-61

It has been almost 6 months since I began my journey at the Kay Mason Foundation.

Having stepped out of the medical NPO arena and into Education, I was acutely aware of the education crisis in South Africa and wanted to part of the solution.

Under the patronage of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Kay Mason Foundation identifies financially disadvantaged scholars who have the potential to be the leaders of tomorrow and assists them in acquiring the education they need to succeed in life.

There are many children in South Africa who have the potential to become future leaders but home circumstances often make it hard for them to realize their dreams.

Our scholars continue to astound me with their resilience, intelligence, and ability to face any challenge head on. They are courageous, vulnerable and they know what strength is.

We hosted our Annual Awards recently and as I looked around the room, I realized that our future leaders and change-makers were all sitting in the school hall together.

These are scholars that know how to serve others.

The pandemic has been tough on their families and communities, and many of them did what they could to uplift, support and serve within these communities. It dawned on me just how wise, mature, and generous their spirits are – even with their own pressures and deadlines they continued to ask, ‘How can I make a difference right here, with the means and the knowledge I have?’

Who we are

I think of the words of Mandela when he said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and what that means.

Through building Future Leaders who have a direct impact on uplifting communities, we are creating change agents and the multiplier effect is key if we are to address societal issues.

The Kay Mason Foundation was founded by Richard Mason in 1999 to eliminate barriers to quality education for underprivileged children and to bridge the opportunity gap, which is one of South Africa’s greatest challenges.

We are unique in that we take a holistic approach to the development of each scholar.

Youth, finding themselves in challenging circumstances, often lack the opportunity to develop skills such as decision-making, a healthy self-image, conflict resolution, communication, interpersonal skills and leadership.

We nurture both the academic and personal potential of our scholars and we support them in both areas for the duration of their school career, plus continued mentorship, support, and guidance post-graduation via our Catapult Program to link them up with experts in the field they wish to pursue, to ‘catapult’ them to success.

We know and understand that mentorship is the golden thread linking a scholar to their dream career and instilling in them the belief that nothing is impossible.

Our vision and mission

Our vision is to ensure equal opportunities through quality education thereby building a nation of leaders and achievers. Our mission is to provide talented, underserved scholars in South Africa access to quality education, support and life opportunities that build tomorrow’s leaders.

The significance of investing in Education

According to Statistics South Africa’s Third Quarterly Labour Force Survey in 2020, 43% of young people aged between 15 to 34 years are not in employment, education, or training.  This represents 8.8 million youth.

Investing in education and the right skills is vital for the country’s economic growth, development, and competitiveness.

If action is not taken immediately, the consequences will be devastating.

The pandemic has added another layer of complexity and challenge to this serious situation.

South Africa has a high-cost, low performance educational system (Autonomous Centre for Education Policy Development, CEPD) that compares poorly with systems in other developing countries. There is a shortage of teachers, under-qualified teachers, poor classroom discipline, insufficient resources and vastly inadequate infrastructure.

Too many development projects provide financial support that makes opportunities accessible to select individuals, but then leave the recipients on their own without further support and mentoring. These programs, although well-intended, builds a further dependency on external support that is never provided and therefore ultimately fails in its original goal.

Youth needs to be constantly motivated and stimulated to develop to their full potential. It is in this environment that they shape their identities, select role models and build their value system which guides their choices and actions.

A holistic personal development program, primarily based on quality education remains the only sustainable solution to assist a scholar not only to achieve her/his full potential, but to develop the abilities to reach out to their original communities to affect the necessary social change.

Education is a fundamental driver of personal, national and global development. One of the most important factors for escaping from poverty is education. The only way a society can continue to grow and prosper is through proper education at all levels.

“Our country not only needs advanced education – both technical and vocational – it needs dynamic, fast paced, ever-evolving skills and a flexible workforce that can adjust to these rapid shifts in demand,” Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said on Tuesday.

He was speaking at the World Economic Forum workshop under the theme: “Shaping the Future of Education and Skills” in Davos, Switzerland.

With the world undergoing a Fourth Industrial Revolution, Minister Radebe said people need the right skills.

“To access these jobs, people will need skills to be able to analyse, adapt, problem solve, manage and work in an increasingly connected way. There is therefore no more time to lose, and this discussion comes at a very opportune moment.”

Education systems must now be focussed on producing skills and young people who have both strong foundational skills as well as specific skills for jobs.

What differentiates us from other NPOs?

For the Kay Mason Foundation, it is the personal touch coupled with the fact that we also select scholars based on their potential, and we nurture this attentively, giving them the support, life experiences and mentorship that they require.

Donors can support a specific scholar and they get to walk a path with that scholar for as long as they wish, building a strong bond. The scholar knows that not only is this person investing in them financially, but that their donor cares for their emotional wellbeing and success.

For me, this is purpose, joy and contribution.

Knowing that someone else breathed easier because of you.

Because of you someone else has a hope and a future.

I will end off with a beautiful quote from our Patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

“Ultimately our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others”.