The long-term negative prognosis linked to the education of South Africa’s children may prove to be one of the most lasting consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic – a reality which places a huge onus on future partnerships in the education realm.

Nathea Nicolay, product actuary at Sanlam Reality, says it would be remiss to place this challenge solely at the feet of our education authorities. On the contrary, she says, the private sector has a duty to consider varied approaches to influence the future of education in our country. As part of this, Sanlam Reality now offers free online supplementary education as well as discounted replacement schooling for high school learners as a permanent benefit to over 1,6-million clients.

“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts South African economic growth at 3,1% and 2% respectively in 2021 and 2022, in stark contrast to advanced economies. Covid-19’s impact on education poses a risk of tapering long-term GDP growth. These pandemic-related disruptions remain significant contributors to the negative impact on human capital accumulation. This should spur us all into action – even more so given the particularly poor prognosis we face to manage the impact on education as an emerging economy.”

The latest National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) research on key outcomes of the Covid-19 crisis in South Africa uncovers devastating learning losses. For example, primary school children lost 60% of the possible 198 school days due to school closures and rotational timetables. In the no-fee schools surveyed, children learnt 50%-75% less in 2020 than a normal year. Education is a cumulative process and so the impact on the learning trajectory of these children is likely to be felt for years to come. Some suggest South Africa will only be able to get back to pre-pandemic learning outcomes by 2030.

“Sanlam aims to empower people to live with confidence. A significant part of this is instilling financial literacy – and much of that stems from foundational phase education. We have dedicated many resources to improving educational outcomes through targeted initiatives – like Takalani Sesame and our Blue Ladder Schools Programme – via our Foundation. We’ve invested some R630 million in the communities we operate in, in the last 10 years alone. We also offer online education to our clients as part of Sanlam Reality, our loyalty programme,” explains Nicolay.

Online as an educational solution

Parents are rightly concerned and continue to seek solutions to bolster their children’s’ education during lockdown. Nicolay quotes important research by Sanlam which shows that among the 52% of Sanlam clients with school-going children, a staggering 93% used online education during lockdown compared to just 23% before the lockdown.

In fact, Nicolay says a quarter of these children used full online replacement schooling, with three quarters using supplementary online education to aid their learning. The research also found that 46% of the children who used online schooling during this time will continue to use digital platforms after returning to school. Half of the parents are also willing to pay for this service.

This research culminated in Sanlam partnering with Ivy Academy, which hosts Ivy Online, to offer free online supplementary education as well as discounted replacement schooling to over 1,6-million clients.

“We believe the private sector has a duty to partner with and supplement national education priorities,” says Nicolay.

Eli Katz, CEO at Ivy Academy, says the platform has seen its numbers blossom since Covid-19. Katz explains that Ivy Academy’s ultimate goal is to bring quality education to the masses in South Africa through quality technology. “It’s a journey with many challenges, for example the high cost of data. That’s why partnerships – such as the one with Sanlam Reality – are key. We have numerous projects in the pipeline to improve accessibility, but we can’t do it on our own – we need other corporates and telecoms companies to play an active role.”

Going forward, private support of online education will need to complement public initiatives to address the lack of connectivity and infrastructure to make online education more accessible in South Africa and limit learning losses, he says.