“Our goal in starting Pioneer Academies has been to expand access to really excellent schooling, and I think for us that has three parts: the first is really focused on what is excellence and how you provide an education that prepares young people and not just to get into university, which is the dominant focus of the last two years of most schools, but actually prepares young people to be successful once they’re in university and beyond,” Chinezi Chijioke, CEO and founder of Pioneer Academies, told CNBC Africa.
“We live in a country here in South Africa where the majority of students who get into university don’t make their way through it, aren’t successful there. If you’re talking about excellence, you’ve really got to focus on how you prepare young people to be successful once they’re there.”
Pioneer Academies is a network of low-cost private schooling that plans to open its first school in the Gauteng province before expanding its reach in other regions in South Africa.
Apart from the financial constraint, some students are always socially and linguistically prepared for tertiary education. Chijioke added that the methods of educational success therefore have to be holistic and not merely about tests, preparation and knowledge.
“The three parts for us are academic excellence – that’s important. What we think is more important than knowledge and the skills of executing an equation are the ability to use information to solve problems. That’s if you’re going to be relevant, and be able to create and lead, how to use what you know to encounter unfamiliar situations,” Chijioke explained.
Turning ideas into solutions, results or impact is the second aspect that, according to Chijioke, has to do with leadership, influence and followership. The third focuses on developing a self-awareness, perseverance and pursuit of success.
“If you can do those three things, then as a young person I think you’ll do pretty well once you get into university and beyond,” said Chijioke.
Pioneer Academies’ first school will open in January 2015 and is currently open for enrolment. The school’s fees range from 2000 rand to 3000 rand per month, which is significantly lower than the average amount of private school fees. The academy also offers primary and secondary school education levels.
“The traditional private school is 80,000 rand plus, and there are other schools now in the 60,000 rand and the 50,000 rand per year. There’s a huge dearth of options for families who are super-stretched to get there. A lot of families who pay 60,000 rand to 80,000 rand, all that glitters isn’t gold. There’s certainly a need to provide options,” Chijioke added.