A tragedy for millions, South Africa’s flailing public education system is proving to be a rainmaking opportunity for some entrepreneurs. Curro Holdings is one such entrepreneurial venture which has seen the gap.
The JSE listed private schooling operation, Curro Holdings, announced yesterday that it is venturing into the teacher education market. It has acquired the Embury Institute for Teacher Education (EITE), an accredited Private Higher Education Institution in KZN, for R60 million. The institution currently accommodates 850 students.
Curro Holdings CEO, Dr Chris van der Merwe, said EITE is an exceptionally fitting addition to the company’s educational value chain and is also currently profitable.
About two weeks ago we reported that more South Africans are digging deep into their pockets in search of quality education for their kids amid growing perceptions that public schooling has largely gone to the dogs. In its latest assessment of South Africa’s economic progression since 1994, the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) fingered substandard public education as one of the key challenges facing the country. “If South Africa is to achieve full employment, the quality of basic and vocational education has to be improved”.
While an overwhelming majority of South African learners remain within the public schooling system, the private schooling sector is booming. According to the latest numbers of the department of education, South Africa has about 14 million pupils and I million students. These are spread across 35000 educational institutions manned by about 453000 teachers and lecturers. In this ecosystem there are about 1800 private schools and 115 private higher education institutions.
The private schooling sector is growing at astronomical levels as shown through the Curro lenses. Curro reported its 2012 financial results last week showing remarkable growth. Revenue increased by 114% to R355,8 million. This said the company was mainly due to a significant increase in learner numbers.
“Notwithstanding the fact that Curro has built several more schools than originally planned, the group nevertheless managed to generate headline earnings of R15,0 million. It was originally planned to accommodate about 10 000 learners in 16 schools by 2013. Progress was made considerably faster to currently accommodate 20 850 learners in 26 schools. This growth provides the potential to again realise sturdy profits by the end of 2013”.
“The group envisages 10 new schools to be built this year, which will bring the total to more than 30 schools at year end. The expectations for 2020 are not 40 schools by 2020 anymore, but in fact 80 schools,” Van der Merwe said.
He said each of the Curro brand names, consisting of the traditional Curro schools, the private community schools (Meridian) and the crèches (CurroCastles) offer attractive opportunities for expansion. There are also opportunities in the high fee school market.
Van der Merwe added that the group is busy acquiring properties for schools country-wide, including Soweto, Johannesburg and Somerset West.
About the EITE acquisition, the institution offers three Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Foundation Phase teacher education qualifications, which are accredited by the Council on Higher Education. These consist of a one-year Certificate in Pre-School Education and a two-year Diploma in Pre-School Education and Foundation Phase Teacher Assistant (grade R to 3). EITE also offer a four-year B.Ed Foundation Phase degree programme.
In collaboration with Unisa, EITE also offers a B.Ed Intermediate and Senior Phase degree programme for aspiring teachers who want to qualify for intermediate (grade 4 to 6) and/or senior phase (grade 7 to 9) teaching.
“Curro wants to support the state in the supply of its education needs. In this regard teacher training should at all times be one of the top priorities,” said Van der Merwe.
“Through EITE’s acquisition we can both provide in our own and the state’s needs for skilled, young and dynamic teachers, although it is currently at a small scale.
“We believe that emanating from this acquisition, Curro will in the future even be able to offer a distance learning facility specialising in the training of teachers. With Curro’s vision of 80 schools by 2020, it will be the ideal platform for new teachers to do their practical training as assistants in the classroom,” Van der Merwe said.