The story of Kuils River mirrors that of many under-resourced communities in South Africa. The picturesque pastural community is plagued by unemployment, substance abuse, gangsterism, gender-based violence and a water contamination crisis.
In the midst of this community stands Sarepta Secondary, a beacon of resilience and hope. In the face of enormous odds, Sarepta’s principal, Yolanda Basson, is creating a schooling environment where quality teaching and learning can take place.
To enhance her leadership skills for the benefit of Sarepta’s 39 teachers and 1,342 learners, Basson signed up for Citizen Leader Lab’s flagship leadership development programme, Partners for Possibility. The award-winning, 12-month programme pairs principals from schools in under-resourced communities with business leaders from the corporate sector. Principals receive the support and skills to lead change and mobilise communities around their schools, and business leaders develop new leadership skills through exposure to the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world of the South African public school.
Basson’s business partner on the program was Lee-Ann Machelm, an Event Manager for one of the world’s leading reinsurers, Swiss Re*. During their year together, the pair focused on improving communication among Basson’s staff, School Management Team (SMT), School Governing Body (SBG), learners and the community. Basson credits the Partners for Possibility workshops for giving her the skills and confidence to do this.
Basson says that gaining ‘’contracting and re-contracting skills’’, the ability to communicate and re-communicate one’s needs, collaborate, negotiate and influence, has not only strengthened her relationship with her staff, but prevented conflict in the workplace. “I re-contracted with a very difficult teacher, and it worked because I told her exactly what I wanted,’’ Basson explained.
Looking forward, Basson and Machelm have expressed a desire to continue working together. In the pipeline are projects to develop the leadership skills of the teachers, motivational talks for matric learners and a staff room upgrade.
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*Funding for this Partners for Possibility partnership was made possible by Swiss Re