Cross-sector partnerships: a viable solution to school leadership

Cross-sector partnerships: a viable solution to school leadership
Dorcas Dube

Equitable access to a quality education undoubtedly has an important role to play in undoing social and economic inequality, but addressing the challenges that plague education in South Africa has proved to be a complex undertaking. Education is a wicked problem – a challenge that has no clear solution, where implementing traditional solutions are ineffective and where throwing money at the problem does not yield lasting change.

In view of the above, there has been greater acknowledgement that governments alone cannot shoulder the problems in education, and this requires business, as socio-economic partners, to help lead the movement from this dispensation. After all, business is the lifeblood of any economy and relies on a well-educated workforce to drive economic growth. School principals are vital in ensuring that schools are environments of quality teaching and learning, as they nurture and equip the future workforce.

Partners for Possibility (PfP), a programme of Citizen Leader Lab, uses a transformative model of action, which entails pairing of principals with business leaders. The focus of PfP is motivated by the fact that the programme is grounded in the belief that quality education is determined by the quality of school leadership. Furthermore, the PfP programme is an imaginative resolution to South Africa’s education emergency and it is a co-action, co-learning partnership between school principals and business leaders as a way of enhancing social cohesion through partnerships and empowering principals to become change agents in their communities and schools. Its main objective is to improve the quality of education by equipping school principals from underprivileged schools and enhancing their skills through cross-sector partnership with business leaders.

Through cross-sector partnerships, the programme aims to improve the quality of education offered in South African public schools, through the development of school leadership, by mobilising active citizens from the business world. Instead of developing an expensive, imported, consultant-led intervention, business leaders, who are well trained to assume leadership positions and manage change, are partnered with school principals who serve under-resourced communities.  South Africa, as a developed economy in Africa, has numerous experienced business leaders.

This process gives the private sector a conduit for social investment. The philanthropic efforts of business in education are not limited to tangible donations – there is an opportunity to channel funds into a sustainable process that strengthens individual leadership skills, builds social capital and implements change initiatives and provides support in schools and communities.

Cross-sector partnerships are a re-invented viable solution to school leadership that results in a huge impact within the schools, including significantly improved skills, knowledge, values and practices, increased community involvement as well as context-driven school improvement.

Since its inception in 2010, the Partners for Possibility programme has grown exponentially. To date, more than 1,700 co-action, co-learning partnerships between school leaders and business leaders have been established in major metropolitan cities and even remote areas across the nine South African provinces. The fact that the PfP programme has a footprint in outlying regions in South Africa demonstrates the true innovation of the programme – it is an easily replicable and scalable solution to pressing educational challenges.

About the Author

Dorcas Dube is the National Marketing and Communications Manager for Citizen Leader Lab. Her passion for education, transformational leadership and social justice has garnered much recognition over the years. Dorcas holds a Masters in Strategic Communication from the University of Johannesburg.

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