Empowering principals

2016-05-24 06:00
 Facilitating the information session for Partners for Possibility in Pinelands were, from left, Gail McMillan, Samantha Davids and Natalie Ross. PHOTO:

Facilitating the information session for Partners for Possibility in Pinelands were, from left, Gail McMillan, Samantha Davids and Natalie Ross. PHOTO:

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An organisation is growing powerful partnerships between school principals and business leaders to boost education across all sectors.

Partners for Possibility (PfP) is the organisation fostering these partnerships and they hosted a gathering in Pinelands last week for schools and business leaders from across the peninsula.

Gail McMillan, regional manager in the Western Cape, is one of the facilitators from PfP who explains how the project aims to be a creative solution to South Africa’ education crisis.

“Through our research and current partnerships we have realised that this co-learning partnership between principals and business leaders enables social cohesion through partnerships, and empowers principals to become change leaders in their schools and communities,” she says.

“PfP is the flagship programme of Symphonia for South Africa a national NPO and PBO, based in Bellville, with a bold and audacious vision to ensure quality education for all children in South Africa by 2025.

“It was founded in 2010 when Louise van Rhyn (director and founder), became the first business leader to partner with a principal in an effort to improve a school’s education outcomes.

“Our initiative speaks to the idea that enhancing the quality of education, improving the school environment and encouraging engagement between parents and teachers are meaningful and attainable goals that would provide an upward spiral of real change in society. By placing the school at the centre of community we believe that a radical transformation can be achieved in the education sector.”

Last year the organisation launched a book written by Mandy Collins that chronicled the story of the community building process so far and how it leadership project has the potential to change and empower education in South Africa.

The book details its beginnings at Kannemeyer School in Grassy Park when Van Rhyn approached principal Ridwan Samodien with the idea of partnering to improve conditions for learners.

At present that partnership is still flourishing and the model has spread to more than 200 schools across the country.

The book details ten partnerships that have made a major difference to schools.

At The Valley Primary in Durbanville, principal Priscilla August partnered with Ansonette van der Merwe of Capespan, a fruit export company. The school faced problems that included poor parent and community involvement, poor pupil discipline and unmotivated staff.

In the first year they started to put their plans in place. Parents were given incentives to start taking an interest in the school and day trips were organised for the children to show them life beyond their farm environment.

One of the highlights of this partnership was creating a school readiness and literacy programme. They have organised volunteers from the community and surrounding areas who give their time to ensure the improvement of the literacy skills at the school.
The success of the partnership between Perivale Primary in Grassy Park and DirectAxis is also in the book with principal Denzil van Graan pointing out the far-reaching influences of the partnership. The school faced a number of issues related to drug and alcohol abuse in the surrounding area, poor academic results and unpaid school fees.

Maria Hill, the business partner, explains how her approach to helping was three-pronged: listening, giving hope, and steering.
Van Graan says the results were nothing less than remarkable. “The school has tuned itself around on so many fronts. Attendance has improved dramatically and our Grade 7’s are now being accepted at high performing schools. We’ve also introduced more extra-mural activities and this has empowered our learners.”

McMillan explains there is a direct correlation between good school leadership and educational outcomes. “Most principals have not been equipped with the skills and knowledge for their critically important leadership role.
“Partners for Possibility is specifically designed to address this where principals are partnered in a co-action and co-learning partnership with business leaders who bring their knowledge and skills about change leadership to the school.”

Visit Partners for Possibility for more information.

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