Leadership for transformation in South Africa’s education system

Leadership for transformation in South Africa’s education system
Dorcas Dube–Londt, National Marketing and Communications Manager of Citizen Leader Lab.

As we celebrate International Day of Education (24 January 2023) we can’t be oblivious to the trapped, multi-layered crises education system in South Africa, regardless of the investments and commitments of improving the education system since the 1994 elections. These challenges include ineffective school leadership, teaching incompetency, inequality and poverty, among others.

In addition, although education is a basic right in South Africa and beyond, learners face the challenge of dropping out and poor academic performance. This calls for attention on how best school principals can assist in turning the tide. Importantly, improving South Africa’s education is key because quality education is regarded as a panacea in overcoming symbolic forms of poverty and inequalities evident amongst the country’s population as stated in the National Development Plan.

Scholars argue that educational leadership for transformation and social justice must be grounded in the particular social and historical conditions in which it is practiced. The Social Development Goals Report mentions that South Africa has a documented history of deprivation and exclusion of the majority of its people.

With no doubt school principals in South African public schools encounter bottlenecks in fulfilling their everyday tasks. Such challenges are compounded by the fact that some of the school teachers are encouraged to take leadership positions based on positive teaching careers rather than leadership capabilities. Moreover, public school principals assume office without adequate leadership development training. There is a clear need to support the development of school leadership in South African public schools.

Consequently, a programme of Citizen Leader Lab known as Partners for Possibility (PfP) was launched in 2010, to mitigate leadership challenges through their development initiative that had made strides in dealing with various institutions in order to improve education in South African communities. The Partners for Possibility model utilises a transformative model anchored in facilitating learning partnerships that are mutually beneficial and respectful.

Since inception, the Partners for Possibility program has developed and extended its footprint to all nine of South Africa’s provinces. Its efforts have not gone unrecognised, having been included in the 2022 Geneva rankings of the world’s Top 500 NGOs and attaining the Champion South Africa Award in 2022. The programme won the WISE awards in 2018 making it one of the most innovative programmes in education in the world. These accolades and milestones are testament to the important work the project is doing in South Africa in enhancing leadership capabilities.

Education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. Education is something we have plenty of, much of it unsatisfactory. As we celebrate International Day of Education, I encourage you to serve wherever you are planted.

About the author

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