Support principals of poor schools in Limpopo

by Symphonia for South Africa
Support principals of poor schools in Limpopo
Learners in action
Learners in action

This case study focuses on the PfP partnership established at Makgongoana High School, a school with 890 learners and 27 teachers. 

School principal Shapule Modjadji and business leader Mapinni Masegela developed a wonderful relationship and said they consider their pairing as a blessing and feel honoured to have been part of ‘a life-changing programme’. Both partners report having experienced real personal growth during their journey together.

 After meeting with a range of school’s stakeholders to agree priorities, the partners implemented a number of activities to address various challenges at the school.

School background and challenges: Makgongoana High is situated in Makanye Village, 30km from Polokwane. The school serves a diverse community of learners from the surrounding villages and there are currently 890 learners from Grades 8 to 12 enrolled at the school. Enrollment has been steadily increasing and classrooms have become overcrowded. This makes it difficult, or impossible, for teachers to implement certain instructional practices and means that learners are more likely to suffer distractions.

 Large class sizes are indeed negatively affecting the learners’ academic performance and their performance has been fluctuating between 20 and 40 percent in the past two years.

Other problems that the principal and teachers face include learners’ lack of disciple, high incidence of pregnancy, substance abuse, vandalism, lack of learner motivation, little parental involvement, low staff morale and the poor condition of school’s infrastructure.

Getting to know each other and building a relationship:Shapule and Mapinini complement each other very well and they developed a wonderful relationship and strong partnership based on mutual trust, appreciation, respect and clear and regular communication. Mapinini is the SGB chairperson in a different school, so he understands what goes on in a school and is able to shares effective practices with her.  Shapule also finds Mapinini to be ‘very kind, caring and supportive’.

 Both partners joined the PfP programme with an open-mind, willingness to learn and intention to make the most of the opportunity. In certain respects, Shapule’s mind-set has changed significantly since she joined the programme and she has realized that solutions to challenges at the school begin with her as leader.

For both partners, Flawless Consulting was particularly empowering. They realized that they act as consultants every day and the contracting skills they acquired have enabled them to communicate more effectively, to deal with resistance, and say ‘no’ when they need to. ‘The workshop taught me how to establish and maintain relationships with my SGB, SMT, teachers and learners,’ says Shapule, adding ‘I am able to say no and this has improved my relations and gained me respect.’.

 The partners’ work to strengthen the school: After conducting a comprehensive school needs assessment Shapule and Mapinini drafted a partnership plan which specifies several objectives and numerous activities that they believe will benefit the school and its community. Activities they have implemented to date include:

  •  A team building workshop for the teachers conducted using Community Building principles.
  • An induction session for the School Governing Body to clarify their roles and responsibilities.
  • A vegetable garden established and fenced with active participation by community members. Although the school already had a vegetable garden prior to PfP, their partnership and the example set by other partnerships in their circle inspired them to do more work on it. Through the Department of Public Works’ EPWP programme, they were able to employ community members to work in the vegetable garden and plant trees.
  • Entered the Green School project in Capricorn District and won in 5th place and a prize of R3,000
  • Secured a batch of new desks from the education department
  • Conducted a successful spring camp at the school to help improve learners’ academic performance

In addition to the above-mentioned activities, the partners the arranged for the South African Police Service to conduct a workshop at the school to help reduce substance abuse, crime and vandalism, and for nurses from the local clinic to conduct a reproductive health session with female learners. They also introduced a weekly yard cleaning plan with involvement by community members and gave a motivational talk to the Grade 12 before their before final exams.


Future plans: Although the partners have already achieved a lot together, they plan to keep working together to achieve additional ambitious objectives which include establishing a library, building a school hall, developing a sports field and increasing parental involvement.

School Management Team and Governing Body members
School Management Team and Governing Body members
Teachers attending team building
Teachers attending team building
PfP Partners planting a tree
PfP Partners planting a tree
Vegetable garden established by school & community
Vegetable garden established by school & community
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Distinguished panelists
Distinguished panelists

Frank, but generative discourse about the role of business in education characterised Symphonia for South Africa’s 2019 Business in Education events that took place recently in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Facilitated by PfP Stakeholder Engagement Lead, Robyn Whittaker, the Johannesburg event featured a diverse group of accomplished panellists, who offered their insightful and thought-provoking perspectives on the topic at hand.

PfP Principal Freddi Antwi and his business partner, Grant Kelly, kicked off the discussion by presenting an overview of their extraordinary journey as Partners for Possibility (PfP) and sharing some of the outcomes of projects they initiated together during the year-long programme. As the distinguished guest speaker, Sphere Holdings CEO, Itumeleng Kgaboesele, closed off proceedings. You can watch Mr Kgaboesele's address at the link we have shared below. 

A few days later, Capetonians gathered for their opportunity to dissect this topic of national importance. Once again, panellists voiced their divergent views on the role of business in education, giving the audience much food for thought. The discussion was facilitated by Symphonia CEO and PfP Founder, Dr Louise van Rhyn

PfP business leader, Deon Myburgh, captured the hearts of the audience as he recounted the remarkable story of his journey with Cloetesville High School Principal, Dorian Meyer and with teachers, learners, and members of the Cloetesville community.The highlight of the programme was undoubtedly the powerful address delivered by Old Mutual Chair and former Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel - we have shared a link to his speech below. 


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Feedback from  School Prinical Lesetja Teffo:

The impact of the PfP programme has been enormous and beneficial. I have learned that every working environment is different, but challenges have a common nature. This has made me to grow as a leader especially after the Time to Think training, where one has had to fully adapt to the skill of listening and allowing a person to say what he wants or should say, the what more can you say effect. This has enabled to develop and grow more in patience and perseverance as a leader.

I have noticed ever since the Activity on Time to Think, that I am more open to my colleagues coming up with possible solutions, to the envisaged challenges.

The members of School Management Team and School Governing Body who attended the PFP Community Building Workshop, have indeed changed and are highly motivated to engage and take the lead in their areas of speciality and leadership.  

The morale is high, motivation is also very positive and many of our members are inspired to go an extra mile towards improving the school s general performance.

My whole personality has positively changed, as a family man, principal and a member of community.


Please a video taken at the celebration event (link below)


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The Leadership Circle in Limpopo is off to a good start. Principals and their Business Leader partners have been introduced to one another and explored the broad goals they wish to work towards for the schools. One of the key elements of building a relationship of trust between the partners is creating a secure space for the participants to communicate effectively. The Partners for Possibility program uses the work of Nancy Kline in her book Time to Think (2002, 2009). This session is one of the 3 formal training sessions of the programme and is designed to introduce the partners and Principals to the 10 components of the Thinking Environment:

                    i.Attention  - Listening with respect, interest and fascination

Listening of this caliber ignites the human mind.  The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.

                   ii.Incisive Questions – Removing assumptions that limit ideas

Incisive questions remove limiting assumptions, freeing the mind to think afresh.

                 iii.Equality – Treating each other as a thinking peer

Giving equal turns and attention. Keeping agreements and boundaries. Even in a hierarchy people can be equals as thinkers.  Knowing you will have your turn improves the quality of your listening.

                 iv.Appreciation – practicing a five to one ratio of appreciation to criticism

A five to one ratio of appreciation to criticism helps people think for themselves.  Change takes place best is a large context of genuine praise.

                  v.Ease – offering freedom from rush and urgency

Ease creates. Urgency destroys.  When it comes to helping people think for themselves, sometimes doing means not doing.

                 vi.Encouragement – moving beyond competition

Competition stifles encouragement and limits thinking.  To be ‘better than’ is not necessarily to be good.

               vii.Feelings – allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking

Crying can make you smarter.

              viii.Information – providing a full and accurate picture of reality

The thinker needs information – at the right moment.

                 ix.Place – creating a physical environment that says back to people ‘you matter’

A Thinking Environment says back to you ‘You matter’.

                   x.Diversity – adding quality because of the differences between us

Diversity raises the intelligence of groups.  Homogeneity is a form of denial.

The Thinking Environment is based on the chosen philosophical view that human beings are by nature good, intelligent, loving, powerful, multi-talented, emotional, assertive, able to think through anything, imaginative and logical.  Behavior to the contrary is seen as the result of assumptions generated over a lifetime by events, conditions and attitudes in a person’s life.

When you can ‘be’ the ten components of the Thinking Environment, you can generate the finest thinking from people. You can also improve your own wellbeing and health, and enjoyment of life.   Your relationships can grow in richness, intelligence and joy.

Our participants are now applying these principles and techniques in their engagements with each other and in the triad meetings with their coach.

In our next report we will introduce you to the principals and business leaders.


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Thanks to your generosity, Symphonia for South Africa has secured some of the funding we need to launch a Partners for Possibility (PfP) Leadership Circle for school principals of under-served schools in Limpopo.  We are concentrating on the Polokwane area and are currently gearing up to launch a Leadership Circle of 8 – 10 school principals in May.

Our preparation includes securing the rest of the funding we need for the school principals to complete the one-year PfP programme. We are also inviting applications from school principals who are interested in the program and determined to turn their schools around in the interest of improved learner outcomes and putting their schools at the centre of their communities.  

Our liaison staff are hosting information sessions and engaging with local business leaders to enrol them onto the program too. The business leaders will each be partnered with a school principal in a co-action, co-learning partnership. This partnership structure is fundamental to the success of the principal leadership development and support program. It enables social cohesion and empowers school principals to become change agents in their schools and communities.

Recently Symphonia for South Africa received the #97 position in the NGO Advisor’s  rankings of the Top500 Best NGOs in the world and are the only South African organisation in the Top 100 list. The rankings evaluate non-profit organisations against a comprehensive set of criteria. These include sustainability, transparency and accountability, impact measurement, independence from government and corporations, funding resilience and their innovation ratio. We are humbled and delighted with this ranking and believe it proves the efficacy of our program.

We look forward to sharing an update on our progress in Limpopo soon. Thank you again for your valued support


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Organization Information

Symphonia for South Africa

Location: Bellville - South Africa
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @PfP4SA
Symphonia for South Africa
Beverley Basson
Project Leader:
Beverley Basson
Bellville, South Africa

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