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OMAI-funded affordable schools outperform despite pandemic

Innovation in the face of unprecedented disruption the key to delivering outstanding performance

Despite immense challenges in the education sector during 2020 caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the schools in Old Mutual Alternative Investments’ (OMAI’s) first education investment impact fund, SEIIFSA, have delivered an outstanding set of matric results.

SEIIFSA delivered an overall matric pass rate of 95% in 2020 compared to its 2019 pass rate of 92%. It also delivered a bachelors pass rate of 61% compared to 48% in 2019.

This was largely due to the ability of the school operators in its portfolio to adapt rapidly to the new environment they found themselves in, according to Kelly Joshua, Head of Education Investments at OMAI.

“We worked very closely with all our operators to help them respond in a way that enabled learning to continue in a safe environment. This meant rapidly scaling up the use of blended learning in all our schools and supporting schools across our portfolio with their various initiatives to ensure that no student was left behind during the pandemic,” says Joshua.

90% of SEIIFSA’s schools trade in the Affordable Market segment and many of the learners were exposed to socio-economic constraints that made it particularly challenging to respond in a way that catered for all learners.

“A school’s ability to adapt swiftly to new technology and adopt a new way of teaching and learning should be an indicator of the strength of the school’s management, not the socio-economic position of its learners,” says Joshua.

“We are incredibly proud of our management teams, learners and parents, who all pulled together to deliver a stunning performance in 2020, despite the unprecedented disruptions throughout the year.”

SEIIFSA’s 2020 performance is even more impressive considering that the national average matric pass rate declined to 76% in 2020 (from 81% in 2019) and the bachelors pass rate to 36% (from 37% in 2019).

This, according to Joshua, highlights the need for the private sector to continue investing in the provision of quality, affordable, independent education, to help alleviate some of the key constraints in South Africa’s overburdened education system. OMAI has recently launched its second education investment impact fund, EduFund, building on the impact and investment successes of SEIIFSA.

Looking beyond percentages, as the SEIIFSA portfolio continues to grow, so does its absolute number of learners writing and passing exams. “We had 1,193 matric passes in 2020, up from 1,075 in 2019, an 11% increase,” says Joshua. “This is a trend that will continue as our schools, which were predominantly new developments, continue to mature and achieve full capacity.”

“We are also seeing an increasing number of top performers coming through the ranks, with 21 learners from our 12 schools participating in the 2020 exams achieving 4 or more distinctions, and many great stories of learners going on to study strong degrees at top universities.”

·         7 distinctions                             3 learners

·         6 distinctions                             9 learners

·         5 distinctions                             6 learners

·         4 distinctions                             3 learners

Joshua says that the lessons learnt in 2020 place SEIIFSA’s schools on a solid ground as the country faces the looming threat of a third wave. She adds that the schools’ rapid adoption of blended learning models positions them for long-term success in an evolving education landscape where technology is likely to play an ever-increasing role.

Joshua says despite the challenging environment, SEIIFSA delivered a positive financial result for its investors in the 2021 calendar year – one of the most volatile years for the investment industry in living memory.

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