Nozizwe Vundla, Head of the Sanlam Foundation

A staggering 57% of South African children in the Early Childhood Development phase of their education  are not on track for cognitive and/or physical development, according to the Thrive by Five Index. To address this and provide tangible impact that’ll help change the course of the country, Sanlam is targeting Early Childhood Development (ECD) through our new Sanlam Foundation Education Programme.

These efforts are rooted in our belief that every child has the right to the highest standard of education, whatever their socio-economic background is. To begin with, the programme will reach 1403 learners and 40 teachers across 20 ECD centres and 14 primary schools inKwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng . The programme will be scaled up and refined once we start receiving the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data. It’s a commitment for the long-term, through a pipeline approach, from ECD to primary and secondary school.

In South Africa, we have the three horsemen of the apocalypse – unemployment, inequality, and poverty. It’s not just joblessness, it’s unemployability that plagues us. Young people don’t have the basics of numeracy and literacy needed to be employable, or to run their own businesses. About two million children start grade R each year. Only one million of these children matriculate. ECD interventions are instrumental in addressing this in a sustainable way.

The Sanlam Foundation Education Programme

Our programme partners with world-class implementation experts to foster strong foundational skills. This work is anchored by a theory of change and measurable outcomes that are regularly reported on, so that our programmes are data-driven.

Nutrition: The Thrive by Five report found 1 in 18 children have signs of long-term malnutrition in South Africa.  We know the first 1000 days of a child’s life are crucial. So, we provide a nutritious and age-appropriate daily meal at all the schools we work with.

STEM: In a class of 20 children starting grade R, just 8 are on track to start their formal education with the right foundations in place. We are focusing on teacher and principal training to ensure robust numeracy and literacy skills are embedded early on.

Home language: Imagine learning foundational maths concepts in a language you don’t speak. The Sanlam Programme focuses on home languages because children learn better in the language they know best.

Psycho-social support: Sanlam provides support to spot issues that may affect a child’s learning early in a child’s education journey – like ADHD, dyslexia and so on – and nurture a child with targeted interventions and additional care.

Robotics: Robotics is another focus. We must ensure none of our children are left behind as we enter a new era.

We hope to share our knowledge and learnings over time as our programme unfolds, and to continue learning from others who run similar programmes. Corporate Social Responsibility is one area where we don’t have to compete as corporates, and we are eager to work more deliberately with other corporates to tackle systemic issues in our education system together to give all children the best possible start in life.

The Sanlam Gauge showed that corporates consistently over-index  on spend, in the socio-economic development element of the B-BBEE scorecards. Sadly, there’s usually no real monitoring and evaluation (M&E) on this spend which makes it difficult to derive the true impact of the initiatives.  Imagine if we all adopt a targeted approach and work together mindfully as corporates to help resolve the ECD crisis in this country, with M&E at the centre of our efforts. Imagine what we could achieve together.

Having recently partnered with Business Day to launch the Sanlam ESG Barometer, we as an institution have placed greater focus on the ‘S’ of the three pillars of sustainability: environment, social, governance. We want to empower all Africans to be financially confident, secure, and prosperous. That begins with the strongest possible educational start.

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