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Corporates to rise to Deputy President's education crisis challenge?

This week Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe called on corporate South Africa to work with government to invest in education upliftment programmes. The good news is that headway has already been made on this front by certain South African corporates like Pick n Pay, Reckitt Benckiser, Incolabs, Bokomo and Glaxo-SmithKline. In 2011, they will be joined by NCP and Tiger Brands, but they will need other groups to join the rally if public-private partnerships in education are to have the desired effect.
Corporates to rise to Deputy President's education crisis challenge?
His call has not fallen on deaf ears, youth specialists, HDI Youth Marketeers observe. In the Sunday Times Generation Next study they conduct, the largest of its sort in the country, they suggest this urgency is also shared by young South Africans (aged 8-22) who believe that education (24.0%) is a more critical issue for government to address than crime (15.4%) or HIV/Aids (15.3%). But the reality is that the country's education crisis requires more resources than government alone to turn it around.

"We support the Deputy President's call for corporate investment in the education sector 100%," says Jason Levin, MD of HDI Youth Marketeers. "Effective brand-funded education programmes have, and will, help alleviate the crisis that South African learners endure daily. Our company is committed to working with brands to achieve this".

Education is a big deal to young South Africa

"And if you think that teens are too caught up with being fashionable and looking good to be concerned with their education, you're wrong. South African teens wish they had more opportunities to learn/study (10.5%) more than they want more clothes (9.7%). And when it comes to what they believe is the best way to establish themselves in the world, wearing the most fashionable things (0.9%) is insignificant compared with doing well at school and getting top grades (42.9%) which tops the list," says Jessica Oosthuizen, research analyst at HDI Youth Marketeers.

So if doing school is such a big deal to teens, then why aren't corporates falling over themselves to get involved in supporting education?

Brand response: what's in it for me?

With so much talk about how flawed the education system is, it's not surprising that corporates are hesitant to get involved in a losing situation. However, it is clear that school-going South Africans are hungry to succeed at school. And instead of viewing the situation as gloom and doom, there is a real opening for brands to make a powerful and relevant connection with young people in this space.

"Some corporates' default thinking is that unless they pitch themselves as cool, they're unlikely to get the desired response from young consumers. But there is real value and opportunity for brands to create a more serious connection with youth in the educational space. These connections are often emotional, deep and more sustainable than cool-cred," says Levin. "Ultimately, if we don't provide the country's learners with the tools they need to do well at school, their aspirations shift to despair and disillusionment which will seriously handicap the livelihood of this country's future."

Brand support can make a real difference

"We don't believe that the solution to establishing a competent education sector in this country is for corporates to pour once-off donations into schools. Rather, to work with organisations to develop beneficial educational platforms that have serious clout in throughout the school year," says Levin.

Making it happen now

HDI Youth Marketeers is the single largest facilitator of public-private partnership in education in South Africa and their educational platforms include:
  • The Pick n Pay School Club: For over seven years, this brand-funded schools programme has partnered with brands to develop curriculum aligned learner materials that are distributed to over 2,000 under-resourced (and well-to-do) schools in the form of teacher guides, posters, learner material and books. This multi-million rand platform will reach 1.6 million learners in 2011.

  • Teen girls' forum: For over a decade, HDI Youth Marketeers has worked with a major FMCG multi-national to educate over 3.2-million teen girls about the importance of feminine hygiene and self-confidence. The programme is in high-demand amongst teachers who consider it to be an invaluable resource for their 13 and 14-year old learners in the area of puberty and menstruation.

  • Luv2Know: The Luv2Know programme was developed to provide suburban teen girls with advice and useful product information for dealing with their changing bodies, self-esteem and grooming.

  • Dettol: In a drive to educate South African kids about the importance of hand washing and personal hygiene, the Dettol roadshow visits over 1,300 schools a year. 'Detto' and his team bring hand-washing to life with a six-step hand-washing lively song and dance show and support materials.

  • Nugget: In 2010, HDI developed an emotional intelligence programme for Nugget. The pilot of 'Show Your Shine' delivered great learner benefit and significant commercial return. 250 township schools participated in the inaugural programme, and 13 malls hosted the 'Show Your Shine' show, giving learners the platform to showcase their talents.

  • Mom & Me: This brand-funded programme creates bonding opportunities for pre-school children and their moms. Through awareness of EQ (emotional intelligence), suncare, oral hygiene and healthcare, over 110,000 children and their teachers have been taught to respect their bodies with Aquafresh, Everysun and Scott's Emulsion through this roadshow programme.

  • Coca-Cola: In the lead-up to the momentous 2010 FIFA World Cup, HDI Youth Marketeers ran Coca-Cola's Ticket Fund recycling project: 'Give it Back'. Over 690 teachers benefitted from the roll-out in schools which distributed educational material to 245,000 learners. The target was to collect one million cans and PET bottles, but over five million were collected. 20,000 learners were rewarded with World Cup tickets and plans are in the pipeline to grow this project in 2011.

  • Nashua Titans: 'Smashing Boundaries' was developed for Nashua Titans to provide learners with useful life skills for helping them overcome the challenges they encounter. Taking cues from the game of cricket, the programme shows how teamwork and participation in sports can help build character.

  • NCP Yeast: This exciting new, national school and community programme will show over 500,000 young South Africans how they can 'Rise to the Occasion'.

3 Dec 2010 10:41