The Capitec Foundation has collaborated with the UCT Graduate School of Business and the Principals Academy to offer school principals in disadvantaged communities an opportunity to improve the learning environment for many young people in South Africa.

Founded in 2015, the Principals Academy programme is the brainchild of former school principal Bruce Probyn and MBA Graduate and Entrepreneur Rick Haw, who shares, “We’ve had a fantastic relationship with Capitec right from the very beginning, and it’s slowly taken on more and more, and now they fund running the business school program at the UCT Graduate School of Business.”

The Principals Academy feeds directly into Capitec’s sustainable and holistic approach to corporate social investment and their objective to actively address the challenges faced by South Africans. It also aligns with their aim to improve the performance and numeracy skills of learners in maths for maths-related careers, and develop maths teachers and school leaders within educational institutions in the communities that they serve.

Bruce Probyn, Trustee & Head Coach at the Principals Academy Trust, explains that the motivation for the programme is to take principals from schools in marginalised communities and upskill them so that they are able to change their school into a functional unit that operates in a community, thereby giving their pupils the best possible chance of a future.

Rick Haw, Founder of the Principals Academy Trust, and Bruce Probyn, Trustee and Head Coach of the Principals Academy Trust.

We meet Zola Malgas, the principal of the Manyana High School in Khayelitsha who has learnt skills to help teachers and pupils strive for quality and excellence, despite socio-economic challenges.

“With the Principals Academy, you get a mentor and you also attend courses that will assist you to become a better principal,” says Nokuzola Malgas, Principal of Manyano High School.

She goes on to explain the effective changes the programme has helped her and her team to execute, “One of the things we implemented was doing class visits and also making sure, that as a principal, I was visible throughout the classes and doing walkabouts. I visit a class, stay for five minutes just to see that things are working well and that the teacher is well prepared and teaching, then I leave. Secondly, one of the things we agreed that we need to do was to look at the workbooks; the quality and the quantity of work that is being done in class.”

This has resulted in a noticeable change in the behaviour of both the staff and the students.

Principal Malgas goes on to say, “Everybody is so proud of being part of the school, even the learners. They are clear on what is expected. They know that when they come to school they are entering the school gate now and they are here to learn and that’s exactly what we expect.”

Founder Rick Haw was the one who approached the business school to design the custom-built course that works with school principals to improve their management and leadership skills. “I still have this belief that if you get that right, the whole thing will improve and cascade all the way down,” says Rick.

In the first year the program had 24 principals that volunteered, and in that year they went to the graduate school of business in the school holidays, while at the same time being coached and mentored by Bruce Probyn and colleague Alan Clarke.

What started off as a hands on advisory program for principals has further developed to support teachers too.

“In about our third year we realised we had to get into the classroom if we wanted to bring about sustainable change,” says Bruce, “so we then got a hold of retired English, Mathematics and Foundation Phase teachers and they actually go into the classroom and assist the teachers to improve their methods of teaching, thereby creating a sustainable model. What we found in many of our schools when we started, is that the pupils don’t have hope. And what we’ve found in our schools now, is that that is slowly changing, that children have hope and the school is now a functional unit and a valued part of the community.”

It’s programs like these that support sustainable development in education that Capitec are inspired to partner with.

“Our holistic approach looks at leadership development, teacher development as well as Maths tutoring. We do this in a holistic manner in that, in schools where we are involved, we first empower the school leader and then we help develop Maths teachers before we implement the Maths tutoring. We believe this will bring about a sustainable impact in the school, that will live beyond our involvement in the school,” says Capitec’s Head of Corporate Social Investment, Neptal Khoza.

A shining example of the improvement in leadership excellence gained through the program is Beacon Hill High School situated in Mitchell’s Plain. The initiative is driven by the hard work and commitment of staff and award-winning principal Greg Kannemayer.

“The problems that we have at this school are gangsterism, unemployment, and drug abuse is very high. We have a lot of support from parents, but the learners who really want the support of parents are not there,” explains Greg Kannemayer who’s on a mission to ensure that the school be a beacon of hope for learners.

“We’ve built, with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a school library. We’ve also expanded the school, where we only had one Inkhanya Computer lab, we now have three operational labs at our school.The community looks after the infrastructure of the school, because they believe that it needs to stay there for generations to come,” says the principal.

“I started working with Greg about nine years ago when he became principal of Beacon Hill and in that period he’s managed to transform the school from being one of the least desirable schools to apply to, to now being one of the most desirable, sought-after schools. And he achieved this by not only thinking of the system in a systemic way but also by incorporating the entire community in the growth of the school. He still has enormous social difficulties and many socio-economic problems, but he’s not deterred by it. He also has the benefit of having the full support of his staff, who are behind him in his vision, and they have collectively worked to transform the school. When you now enter the school, you see children that have got self-respect. They greet you. When you see these children, they have hope and Greg has managed to create that hope,” says Bruce.

Today, we see just how much strategically placed support from socio-economically aware partners like Capitec can empower our educators and unlock the true potential of our youth.