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Execs Back to School school principal education programme running again after Covid-19


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Execs Back to School school principal education programme running again after Covid-19

teacher teaching in class

28th July 2023

By: Darren Parker
Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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After taking a hiatus because of Covid-19, nonprofit organisation Citizen Leader Lab’s yearly Execs Back to School event was hosted once more in Johannesburg on July 28.

The event, which has been running since 2018, serves to help business leaders and executives comprehend the positive impact they can have by joining the Citizen Leader Lab’s flagship Partners for Possibility (PfP) programme.


“It is just to get awareness of the leadership challenge in our public schools. Our school principals have to deal with the most extreme challenges. A lot of these challenges are coming from the socioeconomic ills in our communities as a result of high unemployment and poverty.

“So, these school principals need support to be successful. Every year, we invite a group of executives to come and experience for themselves what really is the need of the community,” Citizen Leader Lab CEO Komala Pillay told Engineering News.


The event consisted of a series of interactive discussions and feedback sessions wherein executives shared their schooling experiences and their view of what South Africa’s schools need.

The highlight of the day was a field trip out to some of the under-resourced schools that have been benefitting from the PfP programme in areas such as Soweto and Diepsloot. Here, executives got a chance to see and interact with the school principal, staff and children, to get a better understanding of the challenges they face.

The PfP programme aims to enhance government and district efforts in supporting and training principals by leveraging the expertise of well-trained business leaders from the private sector. These leaders possess experience in change leadership and are motivated to contribute to public education.

The PfP programme facilitates partnerships between these business leaders and school principals, fostering a structured development process to empower principals in implementing effective changes within their schools.

As part of the programme, business leaders are encouraged to involve their own networks to assist principals in addressing the challenges they encounter. These networks may include information technology, human resources, and various other professions, all of which can add value to school improvement.

The selection of principals for the programme is a careful process, as not all principals may be suitable. Ideal candidates are those who have a genuine desire to enhance their schools and actively seek assistance. They should possess sufficient experience and be open to receiving support.

Principals who meet the programme's criteria will undergo preparation before joining, and they will receive education about the entire conversion process.

Overall, the PfP programme aims to bridge the gap between the private sector and public education, empowering principals to lead transformative change for their schools with the support of experienced business leaders.

“Business leaders come in largely because they want to give back. They want to share their social capital, their skills, their knowledge, their experience, and their networks. They walk away with this completely transformed awareness of what are the realities in our under-resourced communities and in our schools.

“It's an enriching experience. It's actually a nation-building experience. It's bringing together two people from quite different worlds,” Pillay explained.

The PfP programme engages business leaders and school principals, fostering co-learning and co-action partnerships to develop their leadership skills.

The programme is meticulously designed as a 12-month leadership development initiative, wherein business leaders and school principals collaborate to address challenges within schools. Throughout this period, they participate in leadership training courses and facilitated sessions alongside other principals and business leaders. This collaborative approach empowers principals to integrate their schools into the community and elevate the quality of education for the youth.

Simultaneously, business leaders enhance their leadership abilities through hands-on experiences beyond their daily work environment.

While some principals may excel as educators and possess inherent leadership potential, most have not been adequately equipped for the crucial and demanding leadership role they undertake. Addressing this skill gap is a significant undertaking, but it becomes achievable when the private sector offers its expertise and support.

Skilled leadership is paramount for schools to provide the quality education necessary for young South Africans to become productive contributors to society.

In attendance at this year’s Execs Back to School event were software group BBD CEO Kevin Staples, new Minerals Council South Africa CEO Mzila Mthenjane and original-equipment manufacturer Multotec CEO Thomas Holtz, among others.

“We're always looking for partners. We strongly believe that our country requires active citizenship. It requires all of us to come together to support improvements. We can't sit back and wait for other people to solve these problems. We need to be part of the solution,” Pillay said.


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