The JET Story

The Joint Education Trust, the forebear of JET Education Services, was set up in 1992 by a remarkable partnership of leaders from South Africa’s corporate world, from the country’s major political parties, the trade unions and representative organisations of black business.

A remarkable partnership

At the time, when South Africa was on the cusp of a new democratic era, this was a groundbreaking initiative. It was pioneered by business visionary Mr Mike Rosholt who won the commitment from 14 leading South African companies to provide R500 million [more than R1 billion in today’s currency] towards solving one of the greatest challenges that the new democracy would face – the restructuring of the country’s education system, then rife with the inequalities imposed by the apartheid government.

This commitment was not wholly altruistic. Business knew that its future success would depend on well-educated management and a skilled labour force, and on building a relationship with the emerging new government.

Despite an initial air of distrust and suspected hidden agendas, after more than a year’s negotiations and debate, the African National Congress [ANC], the other political parties and the unions accepted the bona fides of business and the Trust Deed was signed.

The Board of Trustees of the Joint Education Trust drew equal representation from all the partners. Despite its diversity, the partnership worked from the first board meeting. The Trust’s successes were undoubtedly due, in the first instance, to this remarkable partnership. They were supported, however, by the management and staff appointed by the trustees to realise the Trust’s strategic objectives in the drive to create a unitary, non-racial education system with equal access to all.

Founding Partners of the Joint Education Trust

Business

  • AECI Limited
  • Anglo American Corporation [with De Beers Consolidated Mines and
  • E Oppenheimer & Son]
  • Barlow Rand Limited [now Barloworld]
  • Caltex Oil [SA] Limited
  • First National Bank of South Africa Limited [now FirstRand]
  • Gencor Limited [now BHP Billiton]
  • Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company Limited [now Johnnic Limited]
  • Sankorp Limited
  • Sanlam
  • Sasol Limited
  • Shell South Africa
  • South African Breweries Limited
  • Southern Life Association Limited [now amalgamated into FirstRand]
  • Standard Bank of South Africa Limited

Political Organisations

  • African National Congress [ANC]
  • Azanian People’s Organisation [AZAPO]
  • Inkatha Freedom Party [IFP]
  • Pan Africanist Congress [PAC]

Trade Unions

  • Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU]
  • National Congress of Trade Unions [NACTU]
  • South African Democratic Teachers Union [SADTU]

Black Business

  • Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services [FABCOS]
  • National African Federated Chamber of Commerce [NAFCOC]

Education

  • National Education Coordinating Committee

Due to corporate restructuring, this list was subsequently enlarged with the inclusion of Amplats Limited, AngloGold, CG Smith Limited, and Reunert Limited. The National Education Coordinating Committee disbanded in 1995.

Focus of funding

Over a period of close to 10 years, the R500 million committed to the Joint Education Trust was disbursed in grants to more than 400 service providers in five focus areas:

  • Early childhood development
  • Adult basic education and training
  • Vocational and further education
  • In-service teacher training and development
  • Youth development

Achievements

Over this time, the Trust supported in-service training for nearly 35 000 teachers, resulting in an improvement in the quality of education for nearly 2.5 million learners across the spectrum – from pre-school to adult education classes and from the most remote farm schools to poor township schools.

In addition, the R500 million invested by the Trust’s donor companies leveraged more than R680 million from international donors such as USAID, the European Union, DFID, DANIDA, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Ford Foundation and the Kellogg Foundation. The Trust’s management of these funds resulted in at least a doubling of the numbers of teachers trained and learners reached.

The Trust’s move towards financial self-sustainability, independent of its original trust funds, was seeded in the organisation’s founding agreement. From as early as 1997, the Trust began to cover a growing proportion of its operating costs from income derived through its non-grant-making work – from fees received for project and financial management undertaken on behalf of foreign and local funders, including government, and from its increasingly valued research services.

In 2001, after successfully discharging its founding mission, JET reviewed its role and shifted focus from fund disbursement to managing education and development projects. Similarly, in 2009, JET Education Services redefined its role amongst the new challenges and role players in education and revised its vision and mission accordingly.

Read Education pathfinders: a short history of the Joint Education Trust 

JET 2015 

The challenges in the complex arena of South African education remain enormous. In this context, JET continued to strive to make a real difference in the lives of some of South Africa’s poorest citizens. Consequently, it increased its focus on education improvement, broadening the scope of its research and development work to include education planning, youth and communities and Further Education and Training College improvement. In 2013, in recognition of our work in the Technical and Vocational Education and training sector, JET was accorded the status of a UNEVOC Centre. 

JET continued to play a significant role in education research and evaluation. Its work was guided by “Vision 2015”, a strategy developed in 2009. The strategy refocused the organisation towards becoming a delivery support organisation, with a particular focus on improving the quality of education for the poor, and with an emphasis on research and knowledge‐based interventions. JET’s three strategic objectives were set:

  • To demonstrate replicable, systemic education change models that can be used by government and its partners to improve the quality of public education in South Africa;
  • To make a meaningful contribution to the education development knowledge base and to finding solutions to the national educational challenges;
  • Run sustainable organisational operations that will increasingly strengthen JET’s organisational capacity and relevance in the education sector.

JET 2019

JET uses its agility in a proactive and innovative manner to develop new solutions in education that can be implemented over time by the large and less agile public system, keeping the transformational agenda at the core of what JET is and does.  JET understands the imperative to work “before government” more than ever, as the hoped-for transformation from South Africa’s painful past is much slower than any of us expected.  The education system is still in dire need of quality improvement and finding the right levers through evidence-based research is more important than ever before. There is a clear need for greater collaboration between like-minded PBOs, post-school education and training institutions, national and provincial government departments, and international agencies. The co-creation approach with funders and clients is embraced by JET. Whilst being firmly committed to our founding vision of improving education for the disadvantaged sections of the South African population, we have expanded our reach to include international work, particularly on the African continent.

JET Today

JET Education Services sees itself an “(dis)intermediary organisation” able to manage the implementation and evaluation of education interventions. In today's day and age, JET aims to be Africa’s leading educational think-do tank. "Think Education. Think JET" was adopted as our new slogan, transitioning from 'Transformation through Knowledge". JET aims to positively impact education policy and implementation in South Africa and Africa through rethinking current education systems and engaging in evidence-based research. JET is driven by four core values: Championing social justice in education, People-centred, Knowledge-driven and Innovative.

JET wants to affect others through evidence-based knowledge interventions, collaboration with the public and private sectors, and the use of technological infrastructure, turn challenges into solutions, resulting in improved education quality, particularly for disadvantaged communities.

JET has adopted the “Infinity and Beyond” principle for its 2021 – 2025 Strategy. The way in which JET does its work influences whether the desired behaviour change will be realised with JET’s different boundary partners. JET draws on a variety of theoretical frameworks, with a common pro-poor focus, to inform how the organisation collaborates, delivers its services and conducts its research.

See our Infinity and Beyond Strategy document

See the JET Theory of Change document