Home » Placing education collaboration front and centre against the odds: Makhanda Education Summit

Placing education collaboration front and centre against the odds: Makhanda Education Summit

Prof Sizwe Mabizela, Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor

by Tia

Rhodes University is proud to announce a prestigious and ground-breaking Makhanda Education Summit, set to take place on 27 – 28 January 2024, and spearheaded by the Vice Chancellor, Prof Sizwe Mabizela.

Government authorities have called national and provincial education summits in the past, but never before has there been a summit convened by a University Vice-Chancellor to demonstrate education as the unique selling point of a city, solidifying it as the leading education city in South Africa and Africa.

Makhanda has been one of a few towns to experience two polar ends of development simultaneously. While the city’s municipality has struggled for some years to deliver services effectively, leading to the city’s gradual degeneration, the city has many committed organisations, entities and individuals who have worked tirelessly to not only keep the area from the brink of collapse but to contribute meaningfully to the sectors they are part of.

From education advocacy groups to basic and higher education institutions, a variety of stakeholders have dedicated years of work towards strengthening and enhancing the quality of education across the entire town.

Over the past eight years, the Vice-Chancellor’s Initiative (VCI) has played a vital role in supporting various education projects that have improved the outcomes of some schools in Makhanda and increased the number of local students who can access higher education learning at Rhodes University and elsewhere.

Such commitment to meaningful change is essential in the context of the provincial realities of the Eastern Cape (which is one of the worst-performing provinces in public education) and the specificity of Makhanda (which possesses some of the best educational facilities, in a city that is still struggling with significant socioeconomic challenges). This commitment to change drives the purpose of the Makhanda Education Summit.

This Summit will focus on knowledge sharing and collective strategizing in the early childhood development (ECD), primary, and secondary schooling phases with a hyper-local focus to directly benefit the local education sector.

This Summit will be a ground-level collaboration of best practices, focusing on the progress in the education sector in Makhanda over the past 10 years and exploring new pathways to develop the sector further.

The Summit will be attended by local schools, education NPOs, representatives of the Eastern Cape Department of Education, and a range of institutions that have been actively supporting the education sector and Rhodes University. It has been brought to life by the VCI) an education development partnership between Rhodes University entities such as the Faculty of Education and the Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) office and education non-governmental organisations such as GADRA Education and the Makhanda Circle of Unity. The Summit will seek to enhance partnerships throughout the city’s education sector and, importantly, celebrate the gains that have been made through the work of the various concerned organisations and individuals.

One notable gain to be celebrated is the outcome of a recent comprehensive study on the literacy rates of Grade 4 pupils in Makhanda, conducted by GADRA Education and the Rhodes University Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education. The study measured the comprehension skills and reading ability of over 1000 children in all the public primary schools in Makhanda. The outcomes reveal that 40 % of Grade 4 children in Makhanda can read for meaning – significantly higher than the 19% national reading rate that was revealed in the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report. While we celebrate this positive position, the Summit will engage on strategies to ensure a substantial increase in the proportion of grade 4 pupils who can read for meaning and calculate with confidence.

The Makhanda Education Summit marks a critical reflection point for education stakeholders in the city of Makhanda and the beginning of a bigger journey ahead. It will be a moment to demonstrate what is possible through partnership and collaboration and affirm Makhanda’ position as one of the country’s leading centres of educational excellence.

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