Sizwe Nxasana has embarked on a mission to prepare young minds for upcoming industrial revolutions.
Nxasana is former FirstRand CEO and the sixth black person to qualify as a chartered accountant in the country.
He serves on a few boards, including the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and the National Education Collaboration Fund. He left the corporate world two years ago, having earned his stripes as a respected executive.
However, what many people do not know about the humble, Newcastle-born executive is that he is passionate about education and since exiting the corporate world, he has embarked on a mission to improve the education system through Pan-African methods.
“It was quite a natural step that when I left corporate life I would do two things; the first is to start a business in the education sector as a social enterprise and second I would, as part of my national service, work with government in the area of education to try to improve the quality at both basic and higher education levels,” Nxasana said in an interview with City Press at Sifiso Nxasana House, head office of the Sifiso Learning Group in Sandton this week.
As the executive chairperson of the group, an entity he co-founded with his wife Judy Dlamini, Nxasana said through Future Nation Schools, a subsidiary, he plans to change the education landscape, improve the quality and introduce a new culture of excellence.
“We are now preparing young minds for the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions and education has a key role to play in that regard. As a country we have a number of challenges.
“And, even though as a country we have done very well in improving access to education we are still battling to improve the quality of education,”
Future Nation has seven schools and Nxasana said there are ambitious plans to ensure the brand grows beyond regional borders.
“We have ambitions that are more Pan-African. We have ambitions of making sure that Africans are part of the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions.
“These are not African problems but continental problems. We have ambitions of growing the footprint continentally, even globally,” he said.
Nxasana said the group has also opted to expand slowly with the establishment of its teaching culture rather than faster acquisition of schools.
He likened the education group to a “laboratory”, examining and researching internationally progressive ways of learning and teaching.
He pointed out that another differentiating factor of the group is the emphasis of development and promotion of indigenous languages.
“The development and promotion of the mother tongues need to be accelerated. If you consider that it’s been proved time and again that our children don’t read for comprehension, we need to invest a lot more in our languages,” he said.
The group has a publishing subsidiary that promotes indigenous writers for both academia and trade books.
Through Sifiso EdTech, another subsidiary, Nxasana said the aim is to use technology to improve education.
Late last year the group donated 36 000 books to the Walter Sisulu University.
Nxasana said the 30 000-plus students at the institution do not, as with most of its peer institutions, have sufficient resources and that disadvantages whoever enrols there.
Asked if he thinks there would be free higher education in the foreseeable future for all, Nxasana said: “The ANC and government are clear on this topic that higher education will be free to those people who need financial aid.
“It’s very clear – in fact even section 29 [of the Constitution] is clear on that – where it says the state within its reasonable means will make higher education available.
“As a developing country that has fiscal constraint I think the state has done as much as it can to make sure it meets that constitutional obligation,” he said.
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