Johannesburg PfP Celebratory Evening 2013



Active Citizenship is the new catch phrase regarding social change in South Africa. The Partners for Possibility annual celebration, held on a chilly highveld night at Parktown High School for Girls (24 July 2013), highlighted just how beneficial and rewarding Active Citizenship can be, especially when it is focused on our education system.

Dr Louise van Rhyn, founder of Symphonia for South Africa, is the dynamo behind the Partners for Possibility (PfP) Programme. PfP is a world class leadership development programme that partners Business Leaders and School Principals together with the aim of transforming the education system in our country.

The PfP initiative is Symphonia for South Africa’s answer to the 2009 Dinokeng Scenarios’ call for Active Citizenship – “for government, business and civil society to work to together to build a united South Africa and to address the significant challenges facing the country”.  Symphonia for South Africa’s vision, a vision that even the fearless Louise van Rhyn describes as audacious, is to achieve quality education for all our children by 2022.








Bobby Godsell

Keynote speakers and co-founders of CitizensZA, Bobby Godsell and Dr James Motlatsi applauded Symphonia for South Africa’s PfP initiative as an excellent example of what Active Citizenship was all about. CitizensZA is an organisation aimed at getting South Africans involved in living the values of our great constitution. Their Active Citizens Charter calls on all South Africans to give just four hours per month of their time to a chosen value, task or cause.

“It’s not just about doing good,” said Godsell, “it’s also about engaging with fellow South Africans. We won’t build a country by making each other feel guilty, we need to respect and learn to embrace each other.” Dr Motlatsi added that instead of waiting for other people to act for us, we needed to act ourselves.

Hearing first-hand accounts and experiences from Partners in the PfP initiative illustrated just what Active Citizenship in Education could mean to schools and children throughout the country.

As mentioned, the PfP initiative focuses on the plight and challenges of School Principals and therefore partners Business Leaders with Principals in order to transfer, enhance and develop leadership skills between the Partners for Possibility.








         Dr James Motlatsi

Pete Laburn, Symphonia for South Africa’s Board Chairman and PfP participant explained that just as in the corporate world, many Principals were thrust into leadership roles because they have good technical skills, not because they have leadership skills.

“This is a lonely and daunting position to be in, because they are always in the public eye and what they do can influence young minds. School Principals need our support, not our criticism,” said Laburn.

Gauteng MEC for Education, Barbara Creecy, who also spoke at the Celebratory Evening, agreed with Laburn, “Anyone in a position of leadership needs support. You need to be able to tell someone that you don’t know how to do things or, that you are scared.”

Noko Leso, Principal of Bramley Primary School found this to be true in her partnership with Ashnie Muthusamy of Sun International.

“One of the greatest benefits of having a Partner for Possibility is being able to share the challenges of my school without fear of being judged,” Leso said, “being able to do this has given me the confidence to involve others in the challenges I face as a Principal. I have learnt that solving problems at a school is not about the Principal, it’s about involvement by all.”

Learning to engage the community is a big part of the PfP Programme. No Principal can solve the problems in a school without the help of the teachers and the parents. "And the taxi drivers,” laughed Ashnie Muthusamy, “never underestimate the power of the taxi drivers in a community.”

Muthusamy explained that as the learners were dependent on the taxi drivers to get them to and from school, Principal Leso needed to get the taxi drivers to agree to change their routes and collect the leaners from school later in the afternoon so that they would be able to participate in the new extra mural activities. “Noko already had all the solutions for the problems in her school. I just offered some structure to the already existing solutions.”

                                            (From Left) Barbara Creecy, Pete Laburn & Louise van Rhyn

Louise van Rhyn stressed that Partners for Possibility is not a programme where Business Leaders step in and change or give advice to Principals. “It is a co-learning initiative,” she explained, “the Business Leaders are there to listen to what is needed and to support the Principals in their daily challenges. And, that’s also where the co-learning starts. Business Leaders suddenly find themselves out of their comfort zones - it is a very different experience to get people to respond or listen to you when they don’t see you as the boss.”

Nina Wellsted of Nedbank felt that her Partnership with Richard Carelse (Principal of Stoneridge Primary School) had given her valuable insights and skills that she could take back to her company.

“No corporate programme could ever be as good a leadership program as my PfP experience has been,” Nina says.

Corporate Social Investment (CSI) is something found in most business budgets, however, money is not the only way to make a contribution.

“It is a great feeling to do something that has nothing to do with money,” said Thomas Holtz, CEO of Multotech, “Instead of just cutting a cheque, I am actively part of something.”

Ashnie Muthusamy agrees, “It is so easy in the corporate world to write a cheque as a CSI. However, going into uncharted territory and trying to build trust in a community, is a big and real challenge.”

“That is the true teaching and benefit of this programme,” said Laburn, “we get to see [the human] gems that sit in our educational system, we see their commitment and we see the very difficult circumstances they endure. Being part of this programme is such a privilege. It is wonderful and exhilarating and I invite other Business Leaders to join.”

Laburn concluded by urging businesses to join the PfP Programme and to become Active Citizens in Education. “You will find it to be the most enriching experience of your life,” he said.

The next Celebratory Evening will be held in Cape Town, on the 28th August, at Bergvliet High School. The Keynote speaker is Minister Trevor Manuel.


30 November -1, 00:00