The morning started with visits to schools of four members of the GSF community in Johannesburg: LEAP Science and Maths, SPARK Schools, SmartStart, and Enko Education. Given the collective focus on improving education outcomes across GSF, there was eager anticipation to get inside the schools.
The school visits were inspirational with children, teachers and school leaders organising songs, dances and tours of the educational establishments to demonstrate their effectiveness in educating local children. The GSF team were moved and overjoyed to see our members and school networks in Johannesburg supporting local children to thrive and improve education outcomes.
For the GSF community, the visits presented an enriching opportunity to see first-hand the various approaches that local organisations are taking to deliver improved learning outcomes, and to understand the challenges they face, like navigating the difficulties presented by Covid. Members expressed how valuable such experiences are to create opportunities for cross-learning and collaboration.
Talking about the school visits and the opportunities created to partner strategically, Corina Gardner of IDP Foundation and GSF board member shared her thoughts with GSF:
After attendees returned from the school visits, early afternoon sessions began under the second day theme of Nurturing Promising Solutions. Rona Bronwin of FCDO, John Rendel of Peter Cundill Foundation and Faith Rose of BHP Foundation shared their views on Where is Innovation Needed, moderated by Stacey Brewer of SPARK Schools. It was interesting to hear from attendees on where innovation is urgently needed, and how they can support innovations to succeed. Key takeaways here included opportunities for flexible and innovative funding including looking at outcomes-based models; the need for philanthropy to be catalytic, flexible, long-term, and unrestricted; and for the big bilateral and multilateral donors like the Department for International Development (DFID) to coordinate better with private philanthropy.
Later in the day Laura Brown and Henry Senkasi of Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) hosted an interesting session on Innovations in Secondary Education and Transition to Work. Difficulties shared during this session about the transition to work included students feeling unprepared for work when leaving secondary education, and a concern about low volumes of students transitioning to secondary school, especially in Zambia where enrolment numbers are low. Innovation in secondary schools examples shared included the digitization of curriculum and partnering with universities, a digitized university application processes, funding through local micro financing and a 16-month coding exercise funded by partner companies.
The afternoon moved to discussions on Innovations in Teaching-Learning Practises. Attendees were invited to join multiple sessions with practitioners, researchers and experts on innovations to improve learning practises and build collaborations to support work, including with Kizazi, Sabre Education and PEAS.
GSF is committed to creating a space where promising solutions with potential to scale can be tested, and we were inspired to see the conversations taking place in these three concurrent sessions discussing innovations in teacher led practise. The discussions and conversations during day 2 felt energizing, and that there is a real appetite and commitment from colleagues to support nurturing promising solutions that help tackle the learning loss crisis. It has been an incredibly constructive second day bringing our community together under our theme of Nurturing Collective Action.