“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Do you know who said that? The late Nelson Mandela. Was he right? I believe so. Why is this important? Read on …
Last night I was fortunate to be able to attend the book launch for Partners for Possibility, the flagship programme of Symphonia for South Africa which is an NPO based in my semi-hometown of Bellville, Cape Town.
Partners for Possibility is a programme that matches business leaders with school principals across the country. Their new book tells the story of how business leaders and principals are “igniting radical change in South African schools”.
In a nutshell, the idea revolves around business men and woman helping school principals become better leaders and visionaries at their schools by teaching basic principles (excuse the pun) of effective business management.
You might think, what place does business strategy have in our education system? Think about this: how do successful businesses operate? Do their staff arrive late every morning? Do their staff complain when asked to work overtime? Do their staff produce sub-standard products and services? Do their staff put themselves first and their customers last?
If you’re running a business based on poor values, poor habits, and poor products as I described above, then you’ll find yourself out of business very soon. And for that reason, successful businesses continuously optimise, revolutionise and radicalise their entire operation to ensure continued success and sustainable grow. It makes perfect sense. They need to survive.
What about successful schools in South Africa? Do teachers arrive late? Do learners arrive late? Is the school hall half-empty during parent-teacher meetings? Is the local community disconnected from the school?
The answers to the above are obvious. Which brings me to my point – a good school operates like a good business. Staff at good schools shift the mindset of “lazy public servant” to “motivated, inspired and willing team player”.
The unique problem we face in South Africa is that a minority of our schools have the knowledge to operate successfully, while the majority of our schools are lacking in this knowledge. The majority of our school leaders are not equipped with the education and knowledge of successful leadership. They have the ability, but they lack the know-how. As Mandela said, education is a powerful weapon. But still too few possess this weapon.
To top it off, 20+ years of democracy have seemed to create even bigger gaps in our education system, which has a knock-on effect for every single other aspect of our country, from employment to crime.
And here is where I believe Partners for Possibility plays one of the biggest roles in the future of our country, more so than any other programme or system ever tried.
In my 10+ years in the education market, I’ve visited hundreds of schools throughout South Africa, from the richest to the poorest. What I’ve realised is that the driving factor of success at a school has less to do with money and resources, and far more to do with the positivity and willingness of the teachers and school leadership. The foundation of a good school is not the bricks and mortar. The true foundation is its principal. He or she has the ability to build up or break down the teachers. The teachers in turn have the ability to build up or break down the learners. And ultimately, the learners become the very people who have the ability to build or destroy our country.
Hearing the stories from the school principals who are part of the Partners for Possibility programme was heart-warming and gave me hope for the future of our country. Thanks to the help of the business people who have partnered with these principals, the schools have transformed totally and irreversibly.
Principals are now taking responsibility for their leadership role. Teachers are taking responsibility in their classrooms. Learners are taking responsibility for their work ethic and conduct. Parents are partnering with the teachers. And the local community has something that it can now be proud of – a school that works!
Partners for Possibility, my message to you: I hope you realise just how critical you are to the future of our country. You now stand between the success or total ruin of South Africa. Our politicians have become more self-absorbed and corrupt. Our government and leadership is questionable at best. But the one thing that can save South Africa now, to close the gap between the 10% and the 90%, are school principals.
Let me say that again – the one thing that can save South Africa, are school principals. Sounds simplistic doesn’t it? Maybe. But it’s still true.
If you are a business leader, even of a very small company, I beg you to find out how you can partner with a school principal via Partners for Possibility. Your company doesn’t directly profit in any monetary way from partnering with a school. But, most importantly to you, you will be ensuring a future for your company in South Africa, while helping thousands of children who deserve a better future.
We need to close our social divide, and we need to do so as quickly as possible. In my honest opinion, Partners for Possibility is one of the few things that can achieve this. So get cracking.
Note: I am in no way affiliated with Partners for Possibility, nor do I receive any kick-backs for writing nice things about their programme. I just really believe in what they are doing.