South Africa

Globally, South Africa spends one of the highest percentages of Gross Domestic Product (over 6 percent) on education.  Despite significant government spending and charitable investments to reform South Africa’s public school system since the end of apartheid, overall student performance has remained low.  The traditional South African education system offers limited quality options for learners from poor communities and unequal access to quality instruction, which is reflected in learner results: only one of every 25 learners ends up with a degree within six years of leaving high school, and just over half of financial-aid students that gain access to university will graduate. Compounding this, there remains a large gap between employer expectations and education outcomes. This stems principally from the approach to education in schools and universities which largely overlooks the soft skills required to perform in today’s professional world.

Despite these challenges, South Africa is an exciting and forward-looking country.  A mix of factors create an environment ripe for scalable, sustainable solutions. A well-developed infrastructure and political system. Universal acceptance of the urgent need to improve education and employment outcomes from across all spheres of society. An openness to cross-sector collaboration. These factors combine together to create a unique opportunity to positively and sustainably influence the lives of children and youth living in poverty.

Transforming education in South Africa will take significant effort across many areas. Our local team, fully immersed in the lessons of history and the experience of local context, has been testing new ideas in collaboration with our many partners, aimed at achieving the greatest positive impact. We focus our resources on helping to improve the outcomes of the basic education system by improving the availability, quality and timeliness of education data. We support first-generation university students from poor families through their studies to graduation and meaningful careers. And we tackle youth employment by increasing access to opportunities for South African youth to go into and retain entry-level jobs.

Our primary objective is to increase access to quality education, and improve educational outcomes for children from South Africa’s poorer communities. We’ve learned that educational data—when put to use correctly—can dramatically improve learner outcomes. That’s why we’ve partnered with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to launch the Data Driven Districts (DDD) initiative and enable data for 80% of South Africa’s 12 million learners to be accessible and actionable by 2018. The project provides schools and district officials the ability to see relevant education data immediately and graphically via a dashboard. The team also coaches officials on how to draw meaningful insights from the data to trigger actions that will improve learner outcomes.

We’ll continue to partner with and support organizations that use information and proven methodologies to identify school and classroom interventions that will improve learner outcomes. We’ll also continue to fund high quality and innovative school operating partners that can substantially increase access to quality education and improve outcomes for children from underserved communities.

Getting and keeping your first job is a life-changing experience for anyone, but particularly if you are from one of South Africa’s poorer communities.  The country has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world. A key factor: young job seekers don’t have the skills and resilience that employers demand. Our aspiration is that by increasing the work readiness of candidates in tandem with improving job retention and progression rates, employers will be encouraged to fill the estimated 500,000 entry-level vacancies that currently exist in the formal economy.

We are finding that creative solutions that focus on job seekers’ work readiness can increase both the number and quality of job placements. We are also finding that providing a small amount of early-employment support to entry-level workers dramatically improves job retention rates. We’re partnering with organizations that increase opportunities for South African youth to access and retain jobs, and, in so doing, laying a solid foundation for the future economic prosperity of South Africa’s disadvantaged youth.

The Dell Young Leaders program is fundamentally changing the lives of first-generation university students from poor communities across South Africa. Our goal is to provide holistic support to enable 500 disadvantaged youth annually to progress through university, graduate and then guide them on to successful career paths.  We see a compelling opportunity to help improve the educational outcomes and economic prospects of financial aid students, and are intentionally levelling the playing fields for them to excel in a competitive graduate market.

Through developing one-to-one relationships, the Dell Young Leaders team is able to have a deep understanding of the core challenges that derail students. By considering the ‘whole student’ and then offering the right support at the right time — whether it be academic, financial or emotional – we are able to create interventions that get these aspiring students back on track.  Our investments develop lifelong skills, resilience and leadership that students in the program can use to create genuine positive change for their families and communities for decades to come.