School @ the Centre of Community

Partners for Possibility welcomes school #500 to its programme

25 January 2017


Participating Partners for Possibility schools across South Africa celebrated a new milestone on 25 January 2017 as the organisation welcomed its 500th school to the programme.

The school, XXXX primary in XXX, KwaZulu-Natal, is part of the first leadership circle to be established on the North Coast of this coastal province. It joins XXX other schools in this circle and 499 other schools across the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KZN, Limpopo and Mpumalanga that have, or are, participating in the programme.

“XXXX Primary and its fellow schools in the first North Coast Circle represent the hard work of more than a thousand volunteers and participants who have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of learners at the participating under-resourced schools. It is the welcome culmination of 6 years of hard work,” says Dr Louise van Rhyn, President and CEO of Partners for Possibility.

Partners for Possibility is a leadership development course in which the principal of an under-resourced school and a volunteer business leader are paired for a year of formal coaching, development and support. During their year together, the partners not only hone their own leadership skills, but they apply what they have learned to their school to solve its most pressing issues.

This unique leadership development and social support hybrid model has earned Parners for Possibility both local and global acclaim, most notably a spot on’s list as one of its Top 10 International Leadership Training Providers. It was also received the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s Reconciliation Award for its work in strengthening the fabric of society in South Africa.

Partners for Possibility was also the subject of an in-depth analysis by the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, which studied the programme’s efficacy in 2015/2016 and found it to be highly effective for both the school and the participating partners.

Says Van Rhyn: “The odds are stacked against many of the under-resourced schools in South Africa. Principals find themselves overwhelmed in a position for which they have received virtually no formal training. At the same time, these schools and their surrounding communities are challenged by crippling levels of unemployment, low literacy rates, social ills such as teenage pregnancy and severely restricted resources.”

These challenges certainly contribute to the very poor performance of South Africa’s basic education sector. A 2015 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) places South Africa 75 out of 76 countries for the quality of its basic education.

The OECD notes that only 27% of children can read after six years of schooling and, viewed differently, only four children out of every 100 who enrol for their first day of school will complete a degree at a university.

To counter these challenges, each partnership on the programme creates a unique development plan for its school, which is then applied to the specific challenges faced by the school.

Partners for Possibility was founded in 2010 by Van Rhyn at Kannemeyer Primary in Grassy Park on the premise that under-resourced schools could benefit from the deep pool of skills and resources available in the corporate sector. It also incorporated the practices observed at high-performance schools – such as a well-functioning school management team and a principal that is energised and capable of leading the school – into its curriculum.

“From the onset, our team of volunteering school principals, academic specialists and business people developed the programme to be a partnership of equals between the school principal and business leader. This remains the case, and we often receive feedback from business leaders that they were more inspired and learned more than their school principal partner,” says Dr Robyn Whittaker, Stakeholder Engagement Lead at Partners for Possibility.

The PfP programme aims to grow to over 700 schools in 2017, with the inclusion of new areas such as Port Elizabeth, George and Oudtshoorn. It also seeks to strengthen its presence in existing, high-growth, areas such as Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and it is actively canvassing for more business leaders to participate.

“Many organisations have chosen Partners for Possibility as their de facto leadership development programme, as it delivers proven outcomes and enables positive social change in the process. Our main aim for 2017 is to recruit more willing business leaders to partner with our ever-growing list of school principals ready to join the programme and improve the lives of their learners,” says Van Rhyn.





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