PG Bison’s Ugie operations in the Eastern Cape include forestry plantations and a state-of-the art particle board factory. We have been working in the area since 2006, since we first bought the plantations, and we are now the single biggest employer in the region. This means we feel a great deal of responsibility to the communities of Ugie and its neighbouring town, Maclear.
The Eastern Cape is still South Africa’s poorest province and struggles with an unemployment rate of roughly 37%. While PG Bison is not able to employ every person in the Elundini district in which our operations are situated, we work to help uplift the community in various ways, especially through education. We believe that education is key to addressing poverty and unemployment, and we have been partnering with local government in this regard for over a decade now.
The Ugie CREATE initiative
PG Bison appointed Infundo Consulting, a Level 2 social enterprise consultancy specialising in development, to partner with us in developing the Ugie CREATE education and community project. This launched in 2009, initially focusing on three schools in the area. As the project grew, more schools were added, and today Ugie CREATE works directly with seven schools, as well as with the wider Joe Gqabi district education team and various youth initiatives.
The schools we work directly with are:
- Maclear High
- Ugie High
- E T Thabane
- Maclear Methodist
Beyond these schools, Ugie CREATE offers teacher training in areas including schools’ management (e.g. for principals and deputy principals) and key subjects – maths, science and accounting. This ensures these subjects are supported across a total of 22 high schools, indirectly touching 16 000 learners.
How Ugie CREATE works
Infundo has used a “hands-on” approach, whilst simultaneously working towards systems transformation by seeing the community as an integrated complex whole.
Scientifically grounded, systematic, and proved models of change and impact are applied, addressing everything from schools’ leadership to succession planning, emotional intelligence, teacher development, resourcing, strategic partnerships, skills development, and team building.
The results of the community integrated support have had an impact from day one. One school showed a pass rate increase from 23% to 69% in just one year. To date, the average matric pass rate has improved and stabilised by up to 20% across the district.
Over the last year or so, the types of interventions PG Bison has been involved with through Ugie CREATE via Infundo include:
- Assisting schools with support for children with special needs, including assessments; completion of requisite policy documentation to call for additional support for the learners; identification of learning needs and strategies for well-functioning School Based Support Teams who manage the process at each school
- Learner motivational workshops at key times of the schooling process i.e. Grade 11 and 12 and Grade 7 and 8 (transition to high school)
- Learner mentor groups – supporting for specific learner needs and social concerns in the area
- Teacher and learner counselling
- Caregiver support – supporting teachers and Learner Support Agents who work with the most “at risk” families and children
- Leadership and management team support – for curriculum delivery and performance
- In-class support – observation and practical classroom management assistance
- Teacher assistants; preparing the next generation of leaders and teachers for the community
- District training, coaching and support, including leadership in schools, leadership development and support and Excel training and analysis of marks for decision-making and monitoring
- Maths and science tutoring and support for PG Bison management parents and their children as part of a PG Bison Employee Value Proposition programme
Celebrating the impact
On 13 February 2020, PG Bison was invited by the Eastern Cape Department of Education to attend the Ugie/Maclear Circuit Management Centre (CMC) Grade 12 Achievement Awards event at Ugie High School.
The event was attended by local dignitaries and stakeholders, including Honourable Mayor Cllr. Nonkongozelo Ruth Lengs of Elundini Municipality (Ugie, Maclear and Mt. Fletcher); representatives from NAPTOSA and SADTU; Victor Mabece, District Director: Joe Gqabi; and Data Driven Districts Chief Education Specialist, Monki Gabashane, among others.
The event celebrated the academic achievements within the region for the 2019 year. The speakers thanked the learners, their parents, the teachers and principals, and PG Bison for helping to make these achievements possible.
Monwabisi Gantsho, Cluster HR Manager at PG Bison, spoke about the company’s role, underscoring that we view our part as enabling educators and learners, and to help promote an environment that is conducive to learning.
He shared a success story from the Ugie CREATE initiative. “Five years ago, Joe Gqabi District helped us to source 20 youth from a National Youth Development Agency funded programme, GOLD Kids,” he said. “They helped us to apply for these learners to apply to the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme – a multi-year programme that promotes teaching in public schools. At the end of 2019, our first two graduated as maths and accounting teachers.”
With the partnership between PG Bison, Infundo, the District, and other stakeholders, and with the hard work and commitment from everyone involved, the Joe Gqabi district performed well in the 2019 year. While the national average pass rate was 81.3%, two of the Ugie CREATE schools achieved 100% pass rates (Ugie High and Umthawelenga), while all but one of the Ugie CREATE schools exceeded the national average. Other accomplishments included schools improving the number of subjects in which their grade 12s achieved a 100% pass rate. Jamangile improved from seven subjects in 2018 to eight in 2019, while Umthawelanga went from six to eight.
“We have seen the clear results of the Ugie CREATE project,” says Pieter de Wet, General Manager of PG Bison Ugie. “The value of up-skilling teachers has been enormous. While we have sponsored practical interventions, including building six classrooms at the schools over the years, as well as ablution facilities, I believe that it’s working with the school governing bodies and mentoring and coaching educators that has ensured a lasting difference in the local education system, which has seen an improvement in academic results of more than 20% to date. We are proud of the schools, teachers and learners in our district, and will continue to support upliftment of our communities through educational development.”