Pretoria - Academic Dr Louise van Rhyn has received the Ideas Into Practice award for boosting education in South Africa at a Thinkers50 awards gala in London.
Van Rhyn started the initiative Partners for Possibility leadership in 2010, which is a non-profit initiative to improve education in South Africa through partnerships between business leaders and school principals.
She was the first business leader to partner with a principal to improve their school’s academic outcomes.
Thinkers50 has named Van Rhyn, founder of NPO Symphonia for South Africa, and its flagship programme Partners for Possibility as its 2021 recipient of the Ideas Into Practice award.
The award recognises Van Rhyn for pioneering and building the multi-award winning Partners for Possibility programme.
‘’This latest validation is not only a phenomenal recognition of Louise’s tenacity and tireless dedication to creating and building the Partners for Possibility programme, but a testament to her success in following her life’s purpose: creating a better future for all,“ said Dorcas Dube, marketing manager for Symphonia for South Africa.
She said they applauded Van Rhyn for pioneering a movement that had improved over a million lives in South Africa.
She said South Africa’s education system was struggling with issues such as social differences that have remained after apartheid.
Van Rhyn was eager to apply the skills she had gained through working with diverse local and global organisations for the benefit of all of South Africa’s children.
Van Rhyn, who holds a doctoral degree in large-scale complex social change, founded Symphonia for South Africa – an organisation that aims to strengthen the fabric of South Africa’s society by mobilising active citizenship, conscious leadership and cross-sectoral collaboration around critical social challenges.
She then launched Partners for Possibility, a leadership development programme that focuses on improving the quality of education by empowering school principals who serve under-resourced communities and building their leadership skills through partnerships with business leaders.
Van Rhyn became the first business leader to partner with a principal in an effort to improve a school’s education outcomes.
Her partnership with Ridwan Samodien, principal of Kannemeyer Primary School in Grassy Park, Cape Town, led to positive change at the school and the community at large.
The school’s success, and the success of this first partnership, has been the model for the Partners for Possibility programme.
Dube said the lessons learnt along the way have been applied to subsequent partnerships as school principals and business leaders together continue to strive to improve education in South Africa.
Symphonia for South Africa has meanwhile launched the first leg of its nationwide TheFutureWeWant campaign.
The campaign, initiated by Partners for Possibility, aims to ramp up much-needed support for principals from under-resourced schools in South Africa.
The aim with this campaign is to create a vision of what is possible in South Africa if all come together to face the challenges in education and to equip principals with the skills needed to lead effectively.
Komala Pillay, programme director for Partners for Possibility, said most school principals in South Africa face formidable leadership challenges, including a lack of training and professional development, poor school infrastructure, under-qualified and demotivated teachers, and students who are often hungry and ill.
“South Africa has thousands of businesses and business leaders who have been very well-equipped by their organisations to assume leadership positions and manage change.”
Pillay said the obvious solution was to partner business leaders with school principals, who are often left to cope without any training or support.