In view of the horrific primary school literacy and numeracy findings released recently by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, corporate companies like Engen are justified in spending much of their corporate social investment (CSI) budgets on developing education. According to Minister Motshekga the state of lower education has a negative impact on post-school training.
The dismal state of education vindicates Engen's continued focus on this area in its corporate social investment efforts. The petroleum leader's focus on responsible corporate citizenship infuses its entire business cycle; from the way it makes its products to the ways in which it markets them.
Khanyisa Balfour, Engen's CSI manager, says. "It is here where corporate leaders like Engen can make a difference with social investments".
In its latest annual report, the country's leading petroleum marketer outlines CSI spend of R32-million, mostly in education, but also in health, safety and the environment. Balfour says Engen aims for corporate social investment (CSI) programmes that leave a lasting legacy.
"It's not an easy task. CSI must cope with ever scarcer corporate resources and ever greater social need. To get maximum value out of what is available to us; our CSI programmes are closely aligned with our business strategy, stakeholder expectations and the country's development priorities. We also use specialist partners to ensure our funds are cost-efficiently and effectively applied."
In short, CSI at Engen has sustainability at its core - corporate, environmental and social. It is a theme that runs throughout its business cycle, from how it produces goods to how it markets them.
Cutting up the pie
As with previous years, the lion's share (60%) of Engen's 2010/11 CSI budget went to education, while 25% went to environmental awareness initiatives and 15% to health and safety.
Engen's Maths and Science Schools (EMSS) programme, which started out decades ago to offer supplementary tuition to the children of company employees, has since then broadened in scope but continues to be the company's flagship educational and CSI initiative.
Balfour says 2050 learners are currently enrolled at EMMSs in seven educational institutions - two in the Eastern Cape, three in KwaZulu/Natal, and one each in the Western Cape and Gauteng.
"The EMSS programme is linked to our bursary programme, which currently supports 50 students studying engineering, commerce and marketing countrywide," she says.
Balfour says the EMSS initiative has been very successful; with a matric pass rate some 25% higher than the national average. It also produces 40% more Bachelors graduates than the SA average.
"But on introducing the programme to rural areas for the first time in 2009, we realised we had to adapt the model to address rural challenges," she adds. "The central problem in the countryside, as with many city schools, is getting good science and maths teachers and supporting children in these subjects, but it also goes beyond that. Rural schools are also severely challenged in terms of teaching, school management and governing body capacity and capability."
To address these problems, Engen's Whole School Development Programme (WSDP) was born last year, combining and integrating maths and science support for learners with training and development for teachers and school management in some priority areas.
Engen piloted WSDP in the rural Sekhukune district in Limpopo, Ugu district in KZN and Chris Hani district in Eastern Cape in 2010. Each pilot site has a cluster of at least 10 schools participating. This is a three-year pilot, in which Engen is investing more than R13.5 million.
To implement the programme, Engen entered into a three-year partnership with two NGOs - CASME and Maths Centre - as well as the district offices of the respective provincial Departments of Education.
Engen has been a major funder of the Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa (PASASA) since its establishment in 1996. In 2009/10, the company contributed R4 906 630 to PASASA for its national paraffin safety programmes.
"We ran a successful education and awareness campaign on this issue, in collaboration with PASASA, in that year," says Balfour. The campaign targeted 55 primary schools across South Africa and Lesotho, with a safety storage message conveyed through community theatre.
The company remains a member of the World Wildlife Fund and Endangered Wildlife Trust, and continues to engage communities and schools in the Durban South Basin with environmental activities, in partnership with environmental groups and NGOs.
In the Western Cape, Engen supports SANCCOB (South African Foundation of the Conservation of Coastal Birds), an NGO that rescues seabirds contaminated by oil spills.
Engen also encourages communities to swap old oil drums for clean ones, thereby playing a major role in recycling, she adds.
Engen dealers and employees have always worked closely with communities, supported by the company through the Employee Community Partnership Programme and Dealer Community Partnership Programme.
Engen dealers across the country, supported by their franchise principal, contributed more than R500 000 to community causes during the last reported financial year. NGOs such as CHOC (Childhood Cancer Foundation) and Reach for a Dream were among many beneficiaries of Engen's once-off donations.
It is clear that CSI programmes must fight hard for the necessary resources to make a difference. Engen's social programmes stand out for being extensive, well-planned and coordinated and for their enduring contribution across a range of causes.
Khanyisa Balfour, Engen Petroleum group CSI manager