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Dr Louise van Rhyn is a doer. Not content to sit back and moan about the crisis in South Africa’s education system, or wring her hands in despair, once she had decided that this would be her purpose, she took a firm decision to do something about it, and jumped right in.
The result of that decision in 2010, is Partners for Possibility, of which she is the founder and CEO.
Partners for Possibility is a carefully designed leadership intervention that partners school principals with business leaders in a programme that has benefits for everybody involved: the principals and business leaders themselves, the broader school communities, and ultimately, the most important people of all, South Africa’s children.
The Partners for Possibility (PfP) programme puts schools back into the centre of their respective communities, and uses the gifts, talents and time of those communities to uplift the school. The results have been astonishing: one by one, in 322 schools in South Africa, schools are slowly transforming themselves into places where both students and staff look forward to school.
“Every South African has a role to play. We all have something to offer. All it requires is the willingness to get involved.”
They walk the corridors of their schools, pride shining from their eyes, and it’s not about a dab of paint here, or a planting of a few trees. Schools are being upgraded from the inside out, and the impact is being seen in vastly improved academic outcomes.
What’s more, the process is sustainable and replicable, because it doesn’t rely on continuous funding, or the largesse of philanthropists. Instead, the school community is empowered to deal with that school’s unique challenges themselves – and all through a process that focuses on growing leadership skills among school principals.
Louise has been the driving force behind the PfP programme. An organisational development consultant by training, she gave up a very successful corporate career in the UK and Europe to return to South Africa and do something about education.
“The challenges the education system faces can seem overwhelming,” says Louise, “ but we can’t just give up. These are our children, and their future is in our hands – literally. All we need to do is put up our hands and work together to make the necessary changes, one school at a time“.
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