A school as a business

Partners for Possibility (PfP), a South African social enterprise that develops leadership capacity in underresourced schools across the country, is a finalist in the global World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Awards.

The announcement was made this morning by the Qatar Foundation, which created the WISE Awards in 2009. Every year it evaluates hundreds of innovations in basic education before ultimately selecting six winners to be showcased at its WISE Summit in Qatar and receive $20 000 in prize money.

Since its inception, the judges for the WISE Awards have evaluated more than 2 400 nominations from more than 150 countries, and have awarded just 54 prizes for social innovations in countries as far afield as Finland, the USA, Spain, Morocco and India.

“To be recognised by the WISE Awards is a very special achievement,” says Dr Louise van Rhyn, founder and CEO of PfP. “It means that our programme meets their criteria of being a creative solution to reduce inequality in South African education.”

The entity was founded in 2010 as a leadership development and principal support programme that brings together a school principal of an underresourced school and a business leader in a year-long developmental partnership.

This partnership participates in an accredited leadership development process, at the same time working together to develop solutions to the challenges faced by its specific school.

Starting at a school in Cape Town, the programme has now grown to incorporate more than 720 schools across South Africa.

“Our programme provides the much-needed support and leadership skills to school principals who have received little or no preparation for the challenging task of managing a complex organisation, with very limited funds, amid crippling social challenges such as poverty, child headed households, drug abuse and gangsterism,” said van Rhyn.

“Aside from supporting the principal and partnering him or her with a business leader who works and learns as an equal alongside them, the programme also creates fertile ground for further interventions and support from business and social change organisations.”

A number of schools in Stellenbosch have completed the programme. Cloetesville High School, Luckhoff Secondary School and St Vincent RC Primary School are currently enrolled in it.

It is estimated that 80% or 20 000 public schools in South Africa are “in crisis” or under-resourced and in need of support.

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