Skills for schools: business as a force for good

19/10/2017 | By Admin

An award-winning NGO is determined to transform education in South Africa – one school at a time.

And it’s relying on business to help do it.

Some 630 schools benefit from the Partners for Possibility (PfP) programme, a unique leadership development initiative bringing together a school principal of an under-resourced school and a volunteering business leader for a year-long, part-time programme of co-action and co-learning.

Since 2010, hundreds of local businesses, big and small, have got involved, including at least 20 members of Business Leadership South Africa.

The partnership together attends leadership development courses accredited by the University of the Western Cape, while specific issues plaguing the school are identified.

The initiative brings together a school principal and a volunteering business leader

For the rest of their time together, the partnership works on addressing these challenges and laying the foundation for greater community involvement and more effective education for the children at the school.

The programme is run by Symphonia for South Africa, a social enterprise chaired by Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa.

On the PfP programme, each partnership is supported by a learning process facilitator, who coaches and mentors each partner individually, the partnership together and a group of partnerships in a leadership circle. In these circles, partners share ideas, solutions and opportunities that could benefit other schools on the programme.

The PfP programme was founded by Louise van Rhyn who became the first business leader to partner with a principal in an effort to improve a school’s education outcomes. It has since been recognised by several local and international organisations for its impact on disadvantaged schools and on the leadership and management abilities of the business leader and school principal.

At least 20 BLSA members have been involved in the project since 2010

Since starting at a school in Cape Town, PfP now works in schools in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Northern Cape.

“Principals at these schools just want support, along with transfer of knowledge and skills,” said PfP’s communications manager Dorcas Dube.

Business leaders participating in the programme spend the first three months just “listening”, said Dube, after which the partnership comes up with a strategy for the year.

“It’s life-changing for the principals involved,” she said. “Having a thinking partner equips principals with skills and knowledge to lead change and mobilise communities around their schools.”

Dube said as many as 20 000 of 25 000 state schools in South Africa were dysfunctional. “We want to get to all those 20 000 by 2025,” she said.

To learn more about the programme, visit