Joe Public’s CSI project, One School at a Time, has been in existence for only 18 months, but in that short time, the advertising agency has raised over R1.9-million for its education upliftment initiative. The agency takes the project so seriously that its head of television production, Bronwyn James, is taking over the project as its full-time role of heading up One School at a Time as managing director.
It all started with Forte High School in Dobsonville, Soweto but two fund raising expeditions that resulted in a team summiting Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro have raised some serious money to start addressing the challenges confronting so many schools in South Africa.
The One School at a Time project was originally formed in 2004 under the Rock4AIDS banner, which has subsequently been re-named and re-focused to its current form.
“In 2007, when we started engaging with the school we realised that the issue is not just HIV and AIDS education, but so much more,” says Pepe Marais, chairman of One School At A Time as well as executive creative director at Joe Public.
“The lack of a proper functioning educational system is at the heart of all social issues that face our country today. 80% of all schools in South Africa are dysfunctional. It is no surprise to me that this percentage is in line with the poverty statistic. We knew we had to make a concrete commitment to making a difference. But, we also knew it would be a long and slow process and have therefore committed to a 25 year plan to assist Forte High and many others along the way,” Marais says.
In 2010, Klasie Wessels, an ex advertising executive, joined up with One School at a Time in their fundraising efforts. Since then, he has become an integral independent partner of the team who has invested his personal time in engaging, leading and motivating Forte High educators and learners on a leadership level.
As of July 1, Joe Public’s head of television production, Bronwyn James will advance into the full-time role of heading up One School at a Time as managing director. “Bronwyn has been involved in this project from the very beginning and knows exactly where the challenges and opportunities lie. We know she’s going to make a great impact,” says Marais.
Over the past two years, several corporate sponsors have come on board to increase the school’s facilities, resulting in refurbished bathrooms provided by CTM, while Tracker has assisted by laying down brand new tennis and basketball courts for the learners. These upgrades go hand-in-hand with numerous management, motivational and skills projects currently implemented within Forte High under the guidance of One School At a Time and partners such as Valued Citizens Initiative.
In addition, and vital to the overall success of One School at a Time, Joe Public has assisted the school in creating their own purpose statement and vision. It is the agency’s belief that to grow any brand, you need to start with the ‘why’. Why does a brand or business exist? This insight can inspire nuclear results in terms of outcomes.
But in the end, it is about finding a sustainable and scalable solution that yields annual results. The pass rate has shifted from 52% to 66% during the last year. The sky is the limit for this school which is intent on becoming a beacon of light within the South African educational system.