Welcome, Deputy Minister Enver Surty, Partners from ELMA and J.P. Morgan, Friends and colleagues. All protocols observed.
First of all, let me thank you all for coming to an event that I have been looking forward to ever since I got here to South Africa.
As many of you know, education is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Helping to improve the quality of education in South Africa has been a priority of mine from day one. Now, I will leave it up to you to decide whether my commitment to education is due to the fact that I am married to one of the most committed and passionate educational advocates I’ve ever met. I cannot tell you how many nights as I am trying to sleep my wife has challenged me to do more on education.
I want to begin by congratulating the South African government on doing a terrific job of increasing educational access across the country. President Zuma has now made improving the quality of education a top priority of the South African government and I couldn’t agree with him more.
That is why when I arrived in South Africa in 2009 I took a long hard look at our U.S. government funding for education. I was surprised to find that the U.S. government has actually been a major player in education in South Africa for decades. USAID began working in the education sector in South Africa in 1986. At that time, it worked directly with non-governmental organizations rather than bilaterally with the host government.
After the 1994 elections, USAID began to directly engage President Mandela’s government as the one of the largest bilateral contributors to basic and tertiary education in the new South Africa. Up until 2009, USAID contributed $400 million to the education sector here. The largest bilateral contributor by far. This is an impressive achievement of which I am very proud.
For various reasons, our development focus began to shift elsewhere outside of the education sector. The U.S. government spends an enormous amount of funding in the health sector, primarily through our PEPFAR program in support of combating the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic. We have also diversified into many programs and projects to help push economic development and trade.
These are all great programs and we are proud of our achievements. But I really wanted us to get back into education because I believe education is the key to South Africa’s future.
The challenges that South Africa faces in education are by no means unique to this country. In many ways, the U.S. faces the same difficulties in the schools in our inner-city urban areas and in the poor, rural areas of our country.
In 2011, my wife Liz, who now works at USAID, accompanied the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to the U.S. with the goal of highlighting our best education practices as well as our shared challenges. They met with teachers’ unions and visited schools that were dealing with the very same problems that we face here in South Africa. They also met with the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to discuss how we can help each other overcome these common challenges.
That trip was the genesis of the project that we are inaugurating today. That trip helped us realize that in order to improve learning outcomes you must increase teacher effectiveness and strengthen classroom and school management. This is a logical statement; students learn more from good teachers in well-run, well-equipped schools. We also realized that there is no need to start from scratch in order to do this. There are pockets of excellence and signs of promise in many schools. And if you can harness those successes, support and develop them and expand them further, then you can make a difference in the whole system.
And that is what we are doing with SCIP.
Working with the DBE, and with our partner funders here, we are providing the important support and funding to take the best educational innovations that are working in pockets throughout South Africa and prepare them to expand throughout the country. Instead of presenting predetermined solutions to the literacy challenge in South Africa, the partners are jointly identifying pockets of innovative excellence by South Africans, for South Africans. This partnership will provide resources for education partners who demonstrate innovation, impact and a vision for growth. Selected models will be refined, tested and expanded for future scale-up.
I really love this program because it is truly innovative in its approach. It is innovative in three main ways.
•First, it is truly a public-private partnership. Here we are today with two national governments, two great private sector partners, and three experienced NGO implementers. We have put together $7.5 million from three separate donors and we are leveraging a vast amount of experience and impressive abilities from each partner to make a project that is much more than just the sum of the parts.
•Second is the close partnership with DBE. The project would not exist without them. It is not something that was cooked up in the U.S. or recycled from similar projects that we were already doing. The South African education department has been part of this every step of the way and will continue to be going forward.
•And third this project really is about doing something that has never been tried before. It is about identifying promising innovations and giving them the time, space, and money to grow. SCIP funding will allow each implementer to carefully refine, rigorously test and thoughtfully expand their innovation so that at the end of three years they are ready for scale-up. Yet during the first three years alone, SCIP will already reach almost two million students across South Africa. In addition, nearly 70,000 teachers (approximately one third of the teaching corps) will be impacted by the SCIP projects.
The other thing that I love about this program is that all of the implementing partners are all very different. The videos will go into greater depth about each of the partners, but I would like to take a moment now to recognize our three implementers:
•The Mindset Network. The Mindset team, please stand.
•Human Sciences Research Council
I would also like to recognize our most important partner, the Department of Basic Education. And of course, thank you to our critical funding partners, the ELMA Foundation and J.P. Morgan, who walk shoulder-to-shoulder with USAID.
And I would like offer a huge thank you to all of you for truly bringing a spirit of partnership to this effort. A partnership like this takes extra effort, patience and a willingness to do things differently. I’m sure there were times when you wondered if we would ever get to this day!
But we have finally done it. We’ve made this project a reality. And this is only the beginning. I am sure that over the next three years SCIP will begin to make a difference. And from there, I truly believe that it will play an important role in changing the face of South African education.
I look forward to seeing SCIP’s successes. Thank you all, again, for all of your hard work and dedication to making SCIP a reality. I wish you all the best of luck.
Last updated: May 14, 2015