Independent Education Spring 2020

meetings to discuss issues affecting our membership as they arose. Such a comprehensive platform is a massive undertaking, and we continue to improve and augment the content. I would posit that none of our sister organisations have offered a resource of this nature, scope and quality. Media matters In terms of media enquiries, this year has been, undoubtedly, the busiest in my time at ISASA. I have been interviewed by Newzroom Afrika, eNCA, eTV, SABC, SAfm, Radio 702, Power FM, Kaya FM, Radio 786, Lesedi FM, Channel Islam International (CII) Radio, Rapport, The Mercury and the Cape Argus , many of them more than once. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted multiple radio, television and print interviews on issues as wide-ranging as school selection, the cost of independent education, scholar transport, public misperceptions about independent schooling and the issue of non-refundable enrolment deposits. Following the arrival of the novel coronavirus on our shores and the resulting closure of schools, the volume of media enquiries grew exponentially, as we were inundated with requests for comment on a number of related issues, such as the perceived danger posed by the virus. Since the first reported case related to an individual who is a parent at one of our schools, ISASA had to learn quickly and share its knowledge on how this new pathogen would affect schooling. It was imperative that ISASA be calm, measured and scientific in guiding the nation on managing learning under pandemic conditions. As the weeks turned into months with the pandemic in full swing, the question turned to how the increasingly challenging economic situation in the country might affect the sustainability of the sector itself, with the question of whether fees were due during the lockdown. Once reopening plans were announced, there was a flurry of interviews around school readiness, safety protocols, the right to deviate from the government reopening dates and concerns over schools as potential hotbeds of infection. Increasingly, ISASA is seen as a vital voice of independent education and, in all our engagements with the media, we have endeavoured to create a cordial, mutually respectful environment where a greater understanding of the sector can be achieved. Conversations with our membership continue Equipping our membership with knowledge about the new occupational health and safety regulations and related employment laws was vital. For the first time in its history, ISASA moved its workshops to an online platform inaugurated by a new workshop entitled, ‘COVID-19: Workplace Matters.’ Now that ISASA had developed the capacity to conceive and deliver relevant training courses expeditiously, it responded swiftly to train our membership on recently revealed sectorial shortcomings. The latest development has been the renewed public conversation on racism in independent schools. I was asked to participate in a panel discussion for the Restitution Foundation, entitled: ‘#YouSilenceWeAmplify – Institutional and Interpersonal Racism in Western Cape Schools.’ The fact that children in our schools still experience discriminatory types of micro-aggressions more than 25 years after democracy is of grave concern to ISASA. As part of our commitment to inclusivity and the eradication of discrimination, our professional development team worked around the clock to bring a new online workshop on anti-racism to our membership in June. Considering the data implications of remote instruction and online learning, ISASA was most gratified to have been able to negotiate special pricing on data and devices from South Africa’s largest mobile networks, Vodacom and MTN. Both providers agreed to make standard data available at a reduced cost, as well as URL-linked (site-specific) data at a significantly reduced cost. Several device options are also available from each provider. ISASA is exploring the possibility of extending this special pricing beyond the lockdown period. The spirit of batho pele During this time when everyone has been tested, it is especially important that gratitude be expressed to those who have been responsive to the needs of the independent schooling sector. Minister Motshekga and Director-General Mweli of the Department of Basic Education have been tireless in their dedication to return South Africa’s children back to school as safely as possible under unprecedented conditions. ISASA appreciates the dedication of these public servants, who epitomise the spirit of batho pele (‘people first’). We also experienced responsiveness from the Gauteng and Western Cape provincial education departments. When independent schools were required to be granted permission to deviate from the enrolment schedule set out in the directions issued under the Disaster Management Act, these provincial education departments worked overtime to issue permits for our member schools to enrol grades as they deemed fit. When President Ramaphosa claims that his government is an administration that listens, we can attest to the veracity of this representation. ISASA’s ongoing commitment It is often said that leading in stable times is difficult enough, but it is in times of crises that leaders prove their mettle. I would argue that ISASA has proved its mettle. As a member-based organisation, ISASA’s ability to adjust its service offering to assist our membership to navigate a global crisis is irrefutable. What this illustrates is that a sound strategic plan and its successful implementation are vital for institutional viability. Membership enquiries have increased significantly during the national lockdown, and those who had doubts regarding ISASA’s usefulness have realised its necessity. As ISASA embarks on a new strategic plan for the 2020–2024 period, it is well placed to build an even better and stronger service- orientated organisation of diverse quality schools that advance the dignity of all within them. I, personally, can assure all our schools of our ongoing commitment to tackle all issues that affect independent schools with tenacity, diplomacy and an unwavering commitment. It is my fervent hope that, through our support and services, ISASA can continue to assist schools to remain vital, sustainable spaces for learning, despite the seemingly relentless onslaught of challenges foisted on them. As the African proverb says, ‘ Sesa feleng sea hlola .’ (‘All things must come to pass.’) COVID-19 is not the exception. Independent Education • Spring 20 12