27 CEOs taught education lesson in SA’s first “Execs Back to School” day

CEO and Principals exchange leadership lessons and build partnerships to improve education.

Execs Back to School to become annual event.

Johannesburg Wednesday 24 October 2018 – Today, 27 CEOs and top executives from some of the country’s largest companies including Sasol, Vodacom, Pearson, HP, Merrill Lynch, Consol Glass, Sphere and EOH swapped the boardroom for the classroom to participate in South Africa’s first Execs Back to School day. The executives will each spend the day at one of 27 different government schools around Johannesburg and Soweto and accompany the school principal as they perform their daily duties.

The business leaders will spend time speaking to pupils and parents, attend classes, and meet with teachers and school management to understand the daily life of the school. The day will build closer ties between school principals and top executives enabling them to share knowledge and leadership experiences while creating the potential for enduring partnerships between the schools and the private sector.

Supporter, Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi said: “Schools and the private sector should build closer partnerships and work together to improve education and help develop the next generation of leaders and active citizens.”

According to Itumeleng Kgaboesele, CEO of black-owned investment holding company Sphere, which has partnered with organisers Symphonia SA to deliver the day, all South African business have an obligation to support disadvantaged schools. “As business leaders we all have our schooling to thank for giving us access to further study and professional life. To succeed as a country, we need thriving communities built around successful institutions like schools that offer pupils hope and opportunity. Over the last two years, working with two different principals, I have seen the positive impact that sharing management experiences with the principals can have on the school community and on learner’s achievement.”

Explaining his participation Stephen Cornell, Joint President and CEO of Sasol, who visited Nandi Primary School in Soweto said, “Personally seeing the actual challenges and triumphs experienced by leaders in our schools has been a learning experience. There are many parallels between leadership in schools and business and countless lessons we can share. Sasol supports many education programmes but gaining practical knowledge of what really works in education is hugely valuable, because we want to ensure sustainable value creation for society, especially young learners.”

The Execs Back to School day is based on New York City’s remarkably successful “Principal for a Day” initiative. It is organised by respected education NGO Symphonia for South Africa, alongside their established flagship Partners for Possibility programme which pairs principals and executives for a year to share leadership lessons.

Collaboration between the educators and the private sector contributes to social cohesion and strengthening the nation’s social fabric, according to lead organiser, Robyn Whittaker of Symphonia SA. “Sometimes I think it’s the CEOs who learn from the principals when they step out of their comfort zones and become personally involved. Building direct relationships with a school and its principal makes support for schools more effective and teaches executives powerful management lessons.”

School principals Mr Frans Chiloane of Nandi Primary School in Soweto and Mr Dave Fransman of Fordsburg Primary School welcomed the CEOs saying: “It’s been a pleasure welcoming our business peers into our schools. We have found executives from the corporate world an invaluable source of new management perspectives and skillsets to help us improve our schools so our pupils can go as far as their aspirations and talent will take them.”

According to author, businessman and analyst, Dr Mzukisi Qobo who spent the day at Fordsburg Primary School, business and schools have much to learn and much to teach each other. “It is in our interest as business leaders for schools to educate our youth with relevant skills and winning attitudes. We should contribute what we can as our skills and networks can be extraordinarily helpful. This is our investment into the future.  I would encourage other companies and executives to get involved next year.”

The inaugural Execs Back to School day will be repeated next year and become an annual event. Companies and executives interested in joining a Partners for Possibility programme or signing up for next year’s Execs Back to School day should contact: Symphonia for South Africa on 011 259 4031 by email on info@symphonia.net or visit www.symphonia.net or www.PfP4SA.org

Symphonia is a level 1 B-BBEE contributor. Organisations which participate in the programme can claim Skills Development and Socio-Economic Development Points towards their BBBEE scorecard.