Putting Leadership First: Capitec Foundation’s Decade of Impact

Putting Leadership First: Capitec Foundation’s Decade of Impact
Leela Moodley Head of the Capitec Foundation

As the Capitec Foundation commemorates its 10th-year anniversary, it is an opportune moment to reflect on its journey, achievements and the partnerships formed along the way. Among these partners, Citizen Leader Lab plays a pivotal role in developing school leadership capable of effectively implementing the Foundation’s programmes.

Origin story

Capitec, a leading digital bank in South Africa, serves over 22million retail banking customers. In 2023, the bank earned the titles of Coolest Bank and Coolest Savings and Investment Platform. Despite being a relatively young company, Capitec has experienced remarkable growth since its establishment.

Capitec is credited with democratising banking and providing access to previously unbanked and underserved populations in South Africa. Then ten years ago, Capitec made a decision to invest in communities. Carl Fischer, one of the founders and now board chairman of the Capitec Foundation, led the introduction of social impact initiatives at Capitec.

“The main objective of Capitec Foundation is to enhance the employability of young people. We chose to concentrate on pure mathematics in secondary schools to ensure that young people possess the necessary skills for careers in high-demand fields,’’ Moodley explains.

“We observed that certain skills were becoming scarce. Jobs requiring strong mathematical skills were in high demand, yet we noticed that young people were selecting the wrong subjects at school, limiting their career options,’’ adds Moodley.

Although mathematics education is the Foundation’s primary focus, there is an acknowledgement of the broader challenges faced by learners. As the Capitec Foundation’s Head of Operations, Mischkha Naicker, notes: “We aim to empower these children not only in mathematics but also mentally and emotionally, preparing them for life.”

Today, the Foundation works in 25 schools, which often lack access to technology and infrastructure to support digital learning.  Currently operational in three provinces—KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng—the foundation has established relationships with specific districts within these provinces.

Holistic approach: Leadership first

Integral to the Foundation’s Theory of Change is the implementation of its holistic Whole School Approach, which encompasses leadership development, teacher empowerment, technological integration and pre-service teacher (tutor) training.

“We realised that to have a deeper impact, we needed to work with multiple stakeholders and address various aspects of the education ecosystem,” says Naicker.

“Before we bring our mathematics programme into a school, which is quite intensive and requires the co-operation of different role players, we invest in the leadership first. Our Whole School Approach can only be successful when the leadership of a school values the programme and helps to implement it. We believe that investing in one school principal can impact thousands within that school’s community,” Naicker adds.

Strategic partnership: Towards lasting impact

The partnership between Capitec Foundation and Citizen Leader Lab represents a convergence of shared values and complementary expertise. Naicker highlights the significance of this collaboration: “Behind the success of our programmes is ensuring that we have strong leadership at our schools to drive and complement the programmes effectively. Citizen Leader Lab’s expertise in leadership development aligns seamlessly with Capitec Foundation’s vision.’’

Citizen Leader Lab is a leadership development and support organisation that offers a variety of programmes and workshops that work towards social cohesion and large-scale social change in South Africa. The organisation continues to deepen its impact in the education sector, while broadening its impact to other public sectors.

Lamontville High School in Chatsworth, Kwa-Zulu Natal, exemplifies how Capitec Foundation’s targeted interventions and Citizen Leader Lab’s leadership model together empower school leaders, mobilise community involvement in schools, and ultimately improve mathematics education in schools.

Supported by the Capitec Foundation, Principal Sbusiso Khanyile participated in Citizen Leader Lab’s renowned school leadership and support programme, Leaders for Education*. This programme has empowered him to significantly shift the school’s culture and bring the Capitec Foundation’s Whole School Approach to fruition.

Through the Leaders for Education programme, Khanyile has created a culture of shared responsibility and empowerment among his staff members. Lamontville has also enjoyed increased community support, evident in activities such as school clean-ups and garden maintenance.

Over the past two years, the principal has been instrumental in implementing the Foundation’s mathematics programme and related teacher training initiatives. The investment in a technology hub and pre-service teacher-led tutorials has personalised learning experiences and notably boosted learners’ mathematics comprehension and confidence. Learners have reported an improvement in their maths marks and attributed this to the programme: “In Term 1 there was no [online maths platform] and in Term 2 my marks got better. It helped me practice more,’’ shared one Lamontville learner making use of the technology hub established at the school.

“As we look to the future, our goal is to achieve a national presence and operate in all provinces with a phased-in approach,” says Moodley.

‘’By teaming up with Citizen Leader Lab, who already have a national footprint and offer a practical, applied leadership model, we’re confident in our ability to expand our reach,’’ Moodley concludes.

*Leaders for Education is a school leadership development programme by Citizen Leader Lab. It offers support and development to principals leading schools in under-resourced communities, aiming to transform them into effective environments for quality education. The programme pairs principals with private sector leaders to facilitate capacity building and change initiatives within targeted schools.