Execs Back to School initiative a resounding success

It was back to school for the CEOs of some the country’s most prominent companies participating in the inaugural Execs Back to School day.

The CEOs and top executives form some the South Africa’s largest companies including Sasol, Vodacom, Pearson, HP, Merrill Lynch, Consol Glass, Sphere and EOH swapped the boardroom for the classroom on Wednesday, 24 October to participate in the inaugural Execs Back to School day – the first event of its kind held in South Africa. The executives spent the day at one of 27 government-run schools around Johannesburg, Soweto and Tembisa, and accompanied the school principal as they performed their daily duties.

Each business leader was given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the school environment by speaking to learners and parents, attending classes and by meeting with teachers and school management. The day forged closer ties between school principals and top executives by providing a platform to share knowledge and leadership experiences, while exploring the potential for long-term partnerships between schools and the private sector.

According to Itumeleng Kgaboesele, CEO of black-owned investment holding company, Sphere, which partnered with organisers Partners for Possibility (PfP) to deliver the day, all South African businesses have an obligation to support under-resourced schools.

‘’As business leaders, we all have our schooling to thank for giving us access to further study and professional life. To succeed as a country, we need thriving communities built around successful institutions like schools that offer pupils hope and opportunity. Over the last two years, working with two different principals on the Partners for Possibility programme, I have the positive impact that sharing management experiences with the principals can have on the school community and on each learner’s achievement.’’

Explaining his participation, Stephen Cornell, Joint President and CEO of Sasol, who visited Nandi primary School in Soweto said:

“Personally seeing the actual challenges and triumphs experienced by leaders in our schools has been a learning experience. There are many parallels between leadership in schools and business and countless lessons we can share. Sasol supports many education programmes, but gaining practical knowledge of what really works in education is hugely valuable, because we want to ensure sustainable value creation for society, especially young learners.”

School principals Mr Frans Chiloane of Nandi Primary School in Soweto and Mr Dave Fransman of Fordsburg Primary School welcomed the CEOs.

“It’s been a pleasure welcoming our business peers into our schools. We have found executives from the corporate world an invaluable source of new management perspectives and skillsets to help us improve our schools so our pupils can go as far as their aspirations and talent will take them.”

According to author, businessman and analyst, Dr Mzukisi Qobo who spent the day at Fordsburg Primary School, business and schools have much to learn and much to teach each other.

“It is in our interest as business leaders for schools to educate our youth with relevant skills and winning attitudes. We should contribute what we can as our skills and networks can be extraordinarily helpful. This is our investment into the future.  I would encourage other companies and executives to get involved next year.”

The successful day culminated in a celebration event held the following day at the Inanda country club in Sandton. In attendance were the school principal and executive participants, Mr Kgaboesele who spoke on behalf of generous sponsors, Sphere, and special guest speaker Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi.

As an avid supporter of the PfP programme through the 66 GDE Schools Project, Mr Lesufi said:

“Schools and the private sector should build closer partnerships and work together to improve education and help develop the next generation of leaders and active citizens.

We have a huge task ahead for us in this respect, but we need to change our education system to yield the necessary dividends, and to create a new narrative about education in South Africa.

Simply, if you can’t get education right, you can’t get the country right.’’

Lead organiser, Robyn Whittaker of PfP, wrapped up the event by emphasising the power of collaboration between the educators and the private sector, and how this can contribute to social cohesion and the strengthening of the nation’s social fabric.

“Sometimes I think it’s the CEOs who learn from the principals when they step out of their comfort zones and become personally involved. Building direct relationships with a school and its principal makes support for schools more effective and teaches executives powerful management lessons.”

The Execs Back to School day will be repeated next year and become an annual event. Companies and executives interested in joining a Partners for Possibility programme or signing up for next year’s Execs Back to School day should contact: Symphonia for South Africa on 011 259 4031 by email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.symphonia.net or www.PfP4SA.org

Watch eNCA’s coverage of the day here:https://youtu.be/HUUPC4hCtoY

Listen to Radio 702’s Bruce Whitfield interview Sphere CEO, Itumeleng Kgaboesle: http://www.702.co.za/articles/324301/we-gifted-20-of-the-business-to-ngos-itumeleng-kgaboesele-sphere-holdings


30 November -1, 00:00