Covid Chaos In SA Schools Adds To Management Burden

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Many parents of schoolgoing children do not realise the volume of management that goes into the education of their children. Schools are in fact hugely complex businesses which would scare the daylights out of many-a-respected business manager. Added to this is the unprecedented chaos caused in our schools due to Covid-19 and lock down.

The average school is larger than most SME businesses and the management teams are tasked with handling an annual budget of approximately R18 million rand, controlling revenue generated – which can exceed R18 million – excluding additional proceeds and subsidies, and dealing with a debtors book in excess of R3 million at any given time – not to mention the preparation of audit and financial statements.

But do SA schools have access to the right resources and management tools?  Many experts say no, and state that if businesses were administered the way some of our schools are, they would not be in business for long.  

Willem Kitshoff, CEO of the d6 Group, South Africa’s leading online school management platform, used by more than 2500 schools around the country, says that when we think of schools, we tend to think only about the learning, and tend to forget the complexities around the school management.

“Schools have an average staff complement of 70 or more people and need to handle employee payroll, disciplinary procedures, leave, performance appraisals etc.  Added to this are possibly 1000 learners in different age groups across different grades, plus their parents.  Hand in hand with this comes all the needs of these students and parents – academic records, extra-mural activities, merit rewards, disciplinary actions, billings, communications, parent evenings – the list is almost endless.”

“There is also the requisite school grounds and equipment management – everything from cleaning services to gardening, maintenance, repairs and IT infrastructure,” says Kitshoff.

And then there are the finances

“The financial management alone of a school is a massive and complex task and many schools may not have the means to pay for an experienced accountant.  When it comes to cash, if you think about an average day at an average school, you have parents coming in to pay their school fees, the purchasing of clothing at the school store, cash changing hands at the tuck shop, as well as money being spent on supplies for cleaning teams, canteens, staff lounges – the list goes on.  All of these financial exchanges need to be managed.”

“Then one has to consider things such as children entering or leaving a school in the middle of a year; differing fee structures for different learners in different grades; Grade 12 fees needing to be recovered over 9 months instead of 10; ad-hoc fees that need to come in for projects – managing all of these aspects together is extremely challenging.”

Reports, reports and more reports

And it doesn’t end there.  Following all of this comes the reporting requirements.  “You haven’t seen complex and frequent reporting until you have seen school reporting,” says Kitshoff.

“Schools need to produce weekly, monthly and annual reports for a wide range of audiences including parents, learners, management committees, the School Governing Body and, importantly, the Department of Basic Education – who require regular reporting by law.”

“The crux is that most school managers – principals and school governing bodies – are ultimately educators at their core and do not typically come from business management backgrounds, so expecting them to keep a school running like a well-oiled machine whilst also looking after the very best interests of each child in their care is a daunting task!”

Schools absolutely need the right management tools to perform at their best

According to Kitshoff, many SA schools are operating with tech platforms that do not have cloud storage or backup systems, no data safety strategies and no way to access the data other than from a campus-based device. 

“In most cases, this old technology is not integrated, does not support complicated curriculum set ups, timetable management, communication, and administration, nor does it facilitate streamlined financial management and reporting.  As highlighted during Covid, when schools had to switch to remote learning, these old systems left much to be desired.  The looming POPI Act also places a huge onus on schools for data safety – which is a massive issue as was seen recently when hundreds of teachers’ from Durban had their personal information leaked online.”

“How do we expect schools to operate effectively if the way they are being managed is still ‘old school’?” asks Kitshoff.

“That’s where d6 comes in.  We provide schools with management systems that enable school heads and teachers to focus on their first passion – teaching and learning – knowing that the administration and management role is taken care of at a cost of approximately R3.50 per learner per month. But best of all is that schools can offset this and even generate additional income through advertising revenue share.”

Kitshoff highlights just a few of the benefits for schools in using d6’s fully integrated, cloud-based management system:

“All administrative, curriculum, financial, communication and learner management elements are fully consolidated and school management has ready access to all these details from their phone, iPad or computer.  All billing is automated after a once-off setup once parents approve the annual budget, and all income is also captured automatically (if parents use the integrated d6 Connect application) – thereby eliminating any incorrect payment allocations.

In the past this information had to be captured manually – creating a lot of extra work.  The d6+ system is also integrated with G-Suite for Education (Google’s Education platform for Classroom interaction) which eliminates the duplication of work for teachers trying to manage different databases; all required reporting is done easily and seamlessly and all data is safe and in line with POPIA and GDPR regulations.” 

“Added to this, parents receive all school related information (notifications, discipline, absenteeism, marks) through d6’s integrated app which is available on mobile, web or desktop, and parents can also pay for any school related expenses via the app and can even provide learners with an on campus spending ability through a bracelet or card. All the spending is managed via the integrated app. The app is also zero rated by a number of telco’s thus no data charges.” 

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