Ad of the Week: Changing the world, one school at a time
by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) The following won a Radio Gold Campaign Loerie last year, but I think it slipped under the radar somewhat because it’s not big and “whiz-bang”. However, it deserves to be acclaimed as it’s an ad agency executing an ongoing campaign that does something practical for change in South Africa, and I can only imagine what would happen if every agency followed this example.
Education remains a challenge in our country and is a space where old apartheid spending still continues to directly impact learner’s outcomes. Ad agency Joe Public, led by Pepe Marais and Gareth Leck, has joined forces with an organisation which has taken on this challenge — One School at a Time.
Joe Public PSA campaign for One School at a Time: “Project English”
Education is a space where old apartheid spending still continues to directly impact learner’s outcomes. This country has been a democracy for 20 years, but educational standards remain vastly disparate. Data shows that children who go to former model C schools fare better than others. Despite government efforts to overhaul the education system, we are still not in a space where our children have equal access to good education outcomes.
Then there’s the issue of the quality of education in this country. The research here shows that, despite relatively high government investment in education, the system isn’t producing the results it should. A report commissioned by independent policy and advocacy group, the Centre for Public Development and Enterprise, clearly illustrates this. Called South Africa’s Education Crisis: The quality of education in South Africa 1994-2011, the report was done by local education expert Nicholas Spaull.
“Irrespective of which subject or grade one chooses to test, most South African children are performing significantly below the curriculum, often failing to acquire functional numeracy and literacy skills,” Spaull writes in this report. “Apart from the 25[%] of schools that are mostly functional, South African schools as they currently stand do not, and arguably cannot, impart to pupils the foundational knowledge and skills they should be acquiring at school.”
Quality of education
A researcher at the University of Stellenbosch’s Department of Economics, Spaull continues: “The learning deficits that children acquire in their primary school career grow over time to the extent that they become insurmountable and preclude pupils from following the curriculum at higher grades, especially in subjects that are vertically demarcated like mathematics and science. While the NSC [National Senior Certificate] pass rate has been increasing in recent years, this measure should not be seen as an accurate indication of the quality of education in the country.”
Going through this research, I’m reminded of what our former leader, Nelson Mandela, once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” With this firmly in mind, I remain more convinced than ever that, if we want to change the world, we must start with education.
While One School at a Time and Joe Public have several projects, the one focused on here is called ‘Project English’.
Language a major factor in the crisis
Language is a major factor in the crisis. While SA has 11 official languages, English has become the de facto language for tuition of two important subjects in schools, namely maths and science. In addition, 16 out of 21 of the country’s universities teach in English.
So, for any learner wanting to progress in careers involving the sciences, such as engineering or medicine, good English skills are imperative. Sadly, the fact of the matter is that these skills are sorely lacking, not only in rural schools as one may expect but also in urbanised areas.
The ‘Project English’ organisers came up with an educational experiment to show that change is possible, and that it can make a difference.
Extra English lessons
One average Grade 8 learner, named Lesego, was given a week of extra English lessons with a tutor. Each day she was asked to read a passage on radio station SAfm, which was also uploaded on the website.
The PSA, produced by Joe Public, demonstrate in a very impactful way how Lesego’s skills improved day by day — from the Monday, when her voice is hesitant and she battles to read simple words, to the Friday, when she is clearly more at ease and able to speak with a confidence and flow.
The aim of the campaign is to raise enough money — R2.2 million — for a pilot project to be launched at Forte High School in Soweto. This will take a test class, and give them daily tutoring by a first-language English tutor from Grade 8 to 12. The final outcome will be to compare this class with the others with regard to maths and science results, to see if there is any notable difference. If the model proves successful, the idea is to roll it out to all classes and other schools.
The PSA lays out the facts and figures very clearly, with great infographics outlining the problem. The scenes of Lesego are heart-warming, as it becomes clear how quickly she can learn — in that one week, her reading had improved markedly, as did her comprehension and confidence.
Speaking from personal experience, I can attest that getting involved to try and change education, ‘one school at a time’ does work. Ornico is involved in a similar initiative. We recently adopted the Gordon Primary School in Alexandra and, over the past year, the results at the school have increased dramatically.
I am convinced that, if all businesses received guidance in how to be involved in projects such as ‘One School At A Time’, we could stage an education revolution of sorts. The watchwords with these efforts, though, is not to storm in to try and fix things but to be open to learning, collaboration and to humbly try and assist where one can.
An agency to watch
But let’s get back to Joe Public, which is increasingly becoming an agency to watch — not only because of the remarkable adverts it continues to create for its clients, and its attitude to self- growth and in-agency education, but mostly because it is becoming a model for how responsible or social capitalism can — and does — work in the agency sector.
This is not the first time that Joe Public has featured in Ad of the Week, and I can only think that this is because being a good agency — an agency where you uplift your people, do brilliant work and try and change the environment in which you do business — creates a smarter organism. It creates an agency that does good in so many more ways than is obvious.
What’s equally as important is that, in a sector hinged on growth and numbers and acquisition, it redefines what doing business is all about.
Ad of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research.
If you are involved in making advertising that is smart, funny and/or engaging,
please let Oresti know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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