Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani. File picture: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - The R100 million Anglo American invested in education between 2010 and 2014 had hardly any impact, an independent researcher said on Friday.

Niessan Besharati said the money went into projects, such as building science laboratories, providing Saturday classes for pupils, winter schools, and teacher training programmes, among other things.

“The programmes had no impact,” said Besharati.

“The positive effect... was too small to have much of an impact.”

He was speaking at a mining and education conference at the Wits School of Governance.

The conference was discussing the impact Anglo had made in education in the communities where it mined.

The conference was attended by academics, mining, and education officials.

Besharati said Anglo American had invested in several schools, mostly based within a 50km radius of their mines in the North West and Limpopo.

It had hoped to improve pupils' results in mathematics and science, especially in Grade 12.

These were essential subjects for engineers, financial analysts, and technical specialists, who could eventually be employed by Anglo.

Besharati had overseen the research project conducted by Wits and the SA Institute of International Affairs (SAAI).

According to the research, schools further away from the mines, and which did not benefit from the corporate social initiatives (CSIs) projects, had performed better than those benefiting.

Schools within the 50km radius had higher participation in maths and science, said Besharati.

However, their pass rates were 3.5 percent lower than those further away.

Besharati said this could be due to the disruptions these schools experienced from protests at the mines.

The reason for the high participation in maths and science could possibly be ascribed to families in these areas urging their children to study these subjects so they could later find employment at the mines.

Not all pupils were good at these subjects. Mining companies struggled to find “A” students to award bursaries to.

At times, special teaching programmes were offered only to the best pupils, meaning those who struggled in these subjects were left behind.

Besharati said a problem in the non-fruitful CSIs was that companies did not spend enough time and money monitoring and evaluating the schools they invested in.

He gave an example of a science laboratory built for a school in Limpopo.

The lab was not used as the school had no water.

Companies provided ad-hoc responses to community problems instead of providing long-term development.

Another downfall was that teachers producing pupils who failed in maths and science were at times deployed to teach even more students on Saturdays and in winter schools.

The research revealed that foreign teachers, particularly from Zimbabwe, who taught in some local schools produced better results in maths and science. Schools that appeared neater and cleaner performed better than run-down, untidy schools.

Besharati encouraged Anglo to continue its CSI projects.

As part of the solution he recommended, among other things, that the development focus rather be on pupils who were performing badly.

“Others had suggested that Anglo top-up teachers' salaries,” he joked, emphasising the commitment needed from teachers.

Earlier, Vincent Maphai of the National Planning Commission, said ultimately it was not the role of Anglo American or any other mining company to improve education.

“Having the private sector too close to government can cause immobility,” said Maphai.

“Is it the primary responsibility of Anglo to deliver major returns... at a system level?” Maphai asked.

“If the answer is yes, we make government redundant,” he said. - Sapa