A country at her best

In her Chairperson’s Statement to the Tiger Brands Foundation 2018 annual report, Ambassador Sheila Sisulu says that South Africans are answering their country’s call right across the country.

A nation’s progress is best viewed over long horizons, but its outcomes are never pre-ordained. Making sure that they are likely to be positive is the work of us all, and South Africans often step up to the plate in this challenge, perhaps more than we may think.

Already in 2012, a global Barclays Wealth survey found that South Africans were the world’s second-most generous (after Americans) in their private giving to good causes. This was often focused in generosity to schools and associated activity. In 2015, Statistics SA reported that the number of

South Africans volunteering to assist in community development had almost doubled in just the previous two years. In the quantum of corporate social investment measured annually by Trialogue, companies invested an all-time high of more than R9 billion in 2017. This, sensibly, also had an emphasis on education, broadly-defined.

For its part, government pursues policies that focus on alleviating immediate poverty and that are pro-poor in broadening the scope of opportunity for people who find themselves in especially the lower income quintiles of the overall population.

Given our history of lost chances for growth and development caused by willful state neglect of, and discrimination against, most of our people; developmental progress, restoration of dignity and redress of inequity may seem a herculean task. But, as the National Development Plan to 2030 convincingly demonstrates, our country’s goals are eminently achievable, provided we take to this purpose with vigour and care, together.

Convinced that the foundations of our country’s critical educational progress must be laid in the health of our children, we are fully aware of the challenge and of its realities.

It is true that vast improvements have been achieved in the state of overall nutrition in the past two decades. Even so, the 2018 SA Survey of the IRR’s Centre for Risk Analysis records that fully 22% of households struggled with food inadequacy in 2016. Most ominously, an average of 15 400 children under the age of five years were admitted to hospitals each year from 2013 to 2016, suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

These findings demonstrate the wisdom that societal progress is often best viewed in its “direction of play” rather than its immediate score. What can we all do to ensure continued progress, a “better score” tomorrow?

An important piece of the answer is found in the work of the Tiger Brands Foundation and especially in its approach of undertaking holistic nutritional school-based interventions in close partnership with public and private sector players at national, provincial, and on-site operational levels. The practical, positive results of working in this way, and in doing so to the benefit of teaching and learning in our schools, are clearly being shown.

They could be further increased, dramatically, when more social investors join us in realising the Foundation’s Enhancing Impact 2022 strategy.

It would be that very South African thing to do: to answer our country’s call in a most effective way, and to give meaning to the late Hugh Masekela’s “Thuma Mina” words: “I wanna be there when the people start to turn it around; when they triumph over poverty…”

Among those already working on this national project are some truly remarkable people. They include my fellow Trustees; our executive management and staff; our public sector partners

in the Ministry and Department of Basic Education and the National School Nutrition Programme; associated social investors; and our partners in 92 schools across our country.

I thank them for what they do for the learners of South Africa.

Ambassador Sheila Sisulu is Chairperson of the Tiger Brands Foundation.


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