The school must be @ the Centre of Community

Dr Mamphela Ramphele believes Symphonia for South Africa's School @ the Centre of Community Initiative gives hope to the country's current education system

The incredible importance of a large-scale change process to radically transform the face of education in South Africa was affirmed on Tuesday by two of South Africa’s most influential education thought leaders.

On Tuesday, 29 May, Cape Town based NPO, Symphonia for South Africa, celebrated the success of its innovative School @ the Centre of Community (S@CC) initiative, which was founded in 2010.

The project, which incorporates the ground-breaking ‘Partner for Possibility’ leadership development programme in which business leaders and school principals are able to develop their leadership skills in a co-learning and co-action partnership, has for the past two years been making huge strides in achieving their vision: quality education for all by

Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, and Professor Brian O’Connell, Rector of the University of the Western Cape, both attended the event, which was held at Bergvliet High School, and commended the work that has been done to date.

“I am thrilled with the work that Symphonia is doing! Thank you for the leadership you have given to society and inspiring so many leaders across the country. You all are doing such a magnificent job, vindicating a free
South Africa that unfortunately continues to fail so many of our children,” Ramphele said during her address.

More than 250 people filled the school hall and listened attentively as school principals and business leaders who are involved in the programme, shared the impacts it has had in their school, work place and community.

“We all know that our education system is broken, but tonight’s presentations demonstrate to me that there is hope! What our educational system needs is total transformation and this is exemplified by the work these principals and business leaders are doing in the school and community.We all need to walk together to make a difference, to make our country the great country it is destined to be!” Ramphele continued.

O’Connell said Symphonia’s S@CC project might be the answer the country needs for total education turn-around.

“I have had few highlights in my career, but tonight’s event is definitely one of them. There is no doubt that our education system is in a state of chaos. But what I see here tonight is something different. Principals realise that they should no longer wait on public works to ‘fix’ them but instead they realise that they have the power within themselves to change
their school. They have found ways to collectively deal with their challenges.

“Schools are at the heart of reconstruction of our crippling education system. Our hearts bleed for students who enter into University because they are so underprepared. Imagine however how our education system can be transformed if more principals and partners become part of this programme. All we’ll need is 1 – 2 years. The school has the power to draw the entire community together and should therefore be the hub of the community. Without that we are doomed for failure,” he said.

Ramphele went on to commend the work of Dr. Louise van Rhyn, Founder and Director of Symphonia and encourage the crowd to take up their role as citizens and fight for a better education.

“South Africa is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world, but with a failing education system we are stuck! The reality is, there is no democracy where citizens are but passive passengers. Why did we become spectators whilst watching how our education system is being destroyed and dismantled? How can we as a modern society accept 30% as a pass mark? It’s an insult on the intelligence of our children and their potential to succeed! 100% is possible. We can do better! It is up to us. Our country needs us. It needs each one of us!” she said.

56 principals and business leaders across the country are involved in partnerships. Symphonia hopes to increase this number to 120 by the end of 2012.

One of the guests who attended the event said: “I left with a feeling of hope for our children, praise for those extraordinary teachers and gratitude that there are people with such positive energy who are prepared to work together to build a brighter South Africa. A celebration indeed!”

Another said: “Tonight’s event has given me, and I’m sure many others, the vehicle to make a difference; to add value; to share our gifts. I was inspired by the partners- they have not only given us ideas to leverage off but inspired us by affirming that we have made the right decision. The confidence and passion of all the partners speak volumes!”

Source: Symphonia – Press Release – 7 June 2012