Pastel revolutionises accounting in classroom
In an initiative worth R130 million, Softline Pastel, South Africa's leading developer of accounting software for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is helping to improve the quality of accounting teaching for grades 10, 11 and 12 in over 5 000 South African high schools.
The company is providing computerised educational accounting software and educator training free of charge and, in the process, is helping schools become computer literate.
"Once we had signed memoranda of understanding with provincial education departments and begun training educators, we discovered that many underprivileged schools to which computers had been donated over the years had not even opened the boxes," says Pastel business development director, Lara Nahon.
"They did not have the skills to set up the computers, load operating systems, or run programs. Also, servers for networked computers had broken down, viruses were rampant, and operating systems were out of date.
"We take our responsibility as one of the key influencers and enablers of accounting capabilities in South Africa very seriously. We believe in going beyond accounting to making a direct, positive difference to the economy. As a rule, that means helping our customers run their businesses better.
"In the case of our Certified School Program, it wouldn't be enough simply to hand over the software and leave the schools to it. So our trainers are involved on a hands-on basis in getting school computers up and running - ensuring our accounting software can be used to best effect by both educators and learners."
Pastel's Certified School Program was designed in consultation with practising educators and is fully aligned with government's National Curriculum Statement (NCS) principles, so by the end of the course, learners have not only acquired practical skills in accounting but also in computer literacy.
"Our program therefore gives students market-relevant skills that are in enormous demand and enable them to very quickly capitalise on job opportunities once they leave school, without necessarily obtaining a tertiary qualification," Nahon says.
One of the first learners to work with the Pastel Program, Moses Sekgapi from Tong Comprehensive High School, in Ganyesa outside Vryburg, agrees: "Now we can compete with learners in urban areas because skills like these always start with them and they get all job opportunities. But this time I will be a Pastel Certified Learner and first in line."
Project director of transformation for the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, Natalie Zimmelman, welcomes the initiative, "because it will have the effect of amplifying our own Thuthuka project, which is designed to help learners at disadvantaged schools improve their maths, accounting and English marks - in order, generally, to better equip them for future careers and, specifically, increase the talent pool for accounting.
"Inherently, Pastel's Certified School Program promotes accounting as a career choice, while being an enormously practical resource to schools. And because it doesn't need access to the Internet, it's especially beneficial to underprivileged schools, which is where we feel the greatest need exists."
"We've been involved for some years at university level - where 15 000 students are trained on Pastel every year," Nahon says.
"But, as a major player in the South African market, we recognised that we also had a responsibility at grassroots level. Although it's a huge commitment - that has necessitated the setting up of a division within Pastel dedicated exclusively to the needs of schools - we're enthusiastic about making such a fundamental difference."
The Certified School Program has built-in systems and assessments that form part of the department's requirements for a Portfolio of Evidence. It therefore ensures no learner is left behind and that educators can track each class member's progress. Its automated reporting function gives the school proof of the effectiveness of the education it is providing. A particularly attractive feature for educators is the built-in self-marking functionality that saves valuable time for educators.
MB Makoko, Deputy Principal of the Ntsu Secondary School in the Free State, believes the Pastel Program "has revolutionised accounting in the classroom".
All schools have to do to get more information about the program is e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.