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Improve education leadership, improve youth unemployment rate

The Statistics South Africa's report 'The Social Profile of Youth, 2009-2014' shows that black Africans, between the ages of 25 and 34, are less skilled than their parents and every other race group, points to the dismal state of the country's education system.
© HONGQI ZHANG – 123RF.com
Rosie Chirongoma, head of stakeholder engagement at Partners for Possibility (PfP), points to the findings of the survey that employment is linked directly to education levels and little has changed since 2009. “In the five year period, the study shows that people who do not have a matric were the most likely to remain unemployed.”

It is time for the business sector to act on this problem, which directly impacts the economy, as learners are not adequately educated or prepared for the workplace and therefore struggle to become meaningful contributors to the economy.

“Of the 25,000 schools in the country, 20% are world-class while the remaining 80% are ‘failing’ schools. Less than 30% of the one million children who start Grade 1 every year will be able to sustain themselves financially. The system is failing South Africa’s children.

“The differentiating factors for those successful schools are two things: they have principals who are equipped for their task and they have an active community of citizens supporting the principal, including parents who are actively engaged in partnership with the teachers as well as an supportive school governing body.

School leadership critical


“On the other hand, failing schools often have teachers who have been promoted to the role of principal (without the knowledge and skills to lead an organisation) and very little support from other citizens and parents.

“A growing body of literature recognises school leadership as the critical factor in turning around an education system in crisis. After his extensive study of schooling in America, the internationally acknowledged expert in educational improvement, John Goodlad, recognised that the critical unit of change for improving education is the school.

“The principal is the change leader at the school. He or she needs to be equipped for this task. There is increasing recognition that the highly specialised role of a school principal requires specific knowledge, skills and expertise. However, in South Africa, the majority of school principals are not being sufficiently equipped for their role.

“Business leaders can support school principals to lead change in their schools and communities. There are thousands of business leaders in South Africa who have been well equipped to assume leadership positions and manage organisational change. They can support school principals and help them acquire the knowledge, skills and expertise they need.

“The principal needs an actively engaged team around him or her to make change happen. School staff in South Africa, especially teachers, often feel overburdened, tired and de-energised. Many have become disengaged.

“In addition, school staff need parents and other members of the community to become involved – they can’t lead change alone. Studies show that one of the key differences between schools that succeed and those that fail is the extent to which parents and other community members are involved in the school.

“Schools can become magnets for gifts and contributions from the community. Many South African citizens are keen to make a contribution, but don’t know how to do so.”

Creating partnerships


This is why Partners for Possibility was established.

“Since 2010, Symphonia for South Africa, a registered non-profit organisation and public benefit organisation, has been supporting and developing school principals by partnering business leaders (with skills and knowledge of leading change) with school principals in co-action and co-learning Partnerships for Possibility across the country,” continues Chirongoma.

“The PfP partnership not only gives the principal an opportunity to acquire leadership and management skills but also helps business leaders develop the skills to deal with complexity and influence, without direct authority. The programme also gives the school and principal access to the business leader’s network and contacts, which helps them to remove many of the obstacles that they face.”

PfP is driven by an audacious vision, to improve the quality of education for all children by 2025 and in doing so change each school’s story into one of hope and opportunity. To date, it has 411 partnerships (411 principals paired with 411 school communities) across South Africa. And is actively expanding in the country to improve the prospects of under-resourced schools. For more information, go to www.pfp4sa.org.
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