Sustainable development is all about the future: meeting the needs of people today without compromising future generations’ chances to meet their own. Nothing does more to equip societies and economies for future growth and prosperity than investment in their greatest asset – their children and young people.
Makause Combined School
In 2015, when Glencore were investing $800 million in their Tweefontein Optimisation Project – a major brownfield development north east of Johannesburg – they got together with the Department of Basic Education, putting almost $6 million into the relocation, expansion and improvement of the Makause Combined School: a key component in the relocation of 120 families from rural Tweefontain to Phola township.
The relocation and upgrade brought an immediate economic boost to the district, providing over 300 temporary jobs in a 17 month project that doubled the size of the school. The new, permanent facility houses 32 classrooms, science laboratories, home economics facilities, wood and metal workshops, a library, a computer centre, and a hall large enough to accommodate its 1200 students, from pre-primary age through to secondary.
On completion, the new facilities were handed over to the Department of Basic Education, who will now use it to educate and empower future generations of South Africans, both for their benefit and for the economic and social progress of the region.
The challenges facing South Africa’s future were highlighted by the 2016 World Economic Forum’s Global Information Report, which ranked it 137th of 139 countries in mathematics and science education. What’s more, in a country in desperate need of technical expertise, and a city with youth unemployment approaching 50%, only 11% of scientists and engineers are women. Anglo American took the initiative, partnering with Parktown High School for Girls in Johannesburg to build a brand new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) facility. The school, where over 1,000 learners strive to “Reach for the Stars”, gained a brand new state of the art facility, with four laboratories and the ultimate objective of generating a new era of enthusiasm for science as a study subject and, ultimately, a foundation for future prosperity – both for students and for the nation.
The plan for the new labs had been around for 15 years, but despite fund-raising efforts on the part of parents, money remained a major obstacle. School principal Tracey Megom says of Anglo American’s contribution, “Without that funding, it might have taken us another three to four years to complete the project.”
With Anglo American’s backing, the project went ahead, and within 18 months the school had its brand new state of the art STEM facility: four new laboratories, packed with the latest and best equipment. “It has a vibe to it,” says Grade 12 student Muqadas Amer, “.…it makes you feel like you’re doing something very very amazing!” The benefits quickly became apparent, with the number of Grade 9 students choosing science up 30% year on year, and increases in the proportion of Grade 12 students going on to take sciences at University level.
Principal Megom is already looking to a brighter future for the school, its students, and the country at large: “There will be more girls doing science, and obviously having access to a great facility encourages them to work hard. These learners will then presumably pursue science and engineering qualifications at university, and will go on to meaningfully fill gaps within the under-represented STEM sectors, ultimately leading to progress in our country.”
Doing well by doing right
Makause School and Parktown STEM exemplify the way doing the right thing can very often be doing the smart thing too. In establishing excellent educational facilities within the communities in which they operate, Glencore and Anglo American have not only strengthened partnerships with the local community and forged better relationships with local authorities, they have also made a significant and enduring contribution to the development of human capital, skills and economic prosperity in South Africa.
Given both companies’ future needs for highly skilled, engaged, empowered employees, their investments in education exemplify the reality of mining with principles: far from compromising corporate imperatives, doing good can make a tangible and significant contribution to doing well.