Pilot School Management Team Programme Celebrates Year of Growth

Citizen Leader Lab, a Non- Profit committed to the development of leaders across sectors, celebrated the successful completion of its pilot School Management Team Leadership Programme (SMTP) on 3 May at the Cullinan Diamond Lodge in Cullinan, 30km east of Tshwane.

SMT leaders are an essential layer of school leadership, overseeing school management, curriculums, teacher supervision and School Improvement Plans. This pioneering cohort of SMT leaders from selected secondary schools in Tshwane began a transformative leadership journey just a year ago, where they had the opportunity to partake in peer to peer learning, coaching and workshops that not only developed their own leadership skills, but also improved their schools.

Reflecting on their achievements, Dr Mariette Myburgh, the facilitator of the pilot, said: “Being an SMT leader is challenging, yet fulfilling. Throughout the programme, the leaders demonstrated tenacity, passion and resilience – all towards making a real difference in our schools.’’

The programme’s genesis traces back to a strategic partnership formed between Citizen Leader Lab and the Capitec Foundation. With a history of working with public school principals, Citizen Leader Lab recognised the need to empower leaders from School Management Teams. Similarly, investing in the leadership of schools aligns with the Foundation’s Whole School Approach that emphasises the need for strong ecosystems in secondary schools to specifically strengthen Mathematics education.

CEO of Citizen Leader Lab, Komala Pillay, said: ‘’The SMT programme forms part of Citizen Leader Lab’s strategy to deepen impact in the education sector. The programme is a testament to our 14-year commitment to this and complements our Leaders for Education (previously Partners for Possibility) programme which empowers and supports public school principals across South Africa. Following this successful pilot, the Capitec Foundation will continue to support strengthened school leadership—a key precursor towards improving learning outcomes.’’

The participants were then given a platform to share feedback on their leadership journey.

In the words of Confidence Mathabathe, a mathematics teacher and Department Head at Chipa Tabane Comprehensive High, the programme helped him to ‘’grow exponentially’’.

‘’Respect is a core aspect of healthy relationships. This programme showed me that active listening is not just a skill; it’s an act of respect,’’ he said.

Sonia Lotz, the Department Head of Humanities and Consumer Studies at Clapham High, credits the programme for ‘’kickstarting’’ her leadership journey.

‘’I used to be a fixer and if I wasn’t doing everything myself, I believed I was not a good Department Head. This was very inefficient. I was overwhelmed, exhausted and ready to quit. After going through this programme, I’m inspired to be a better leader,’’ Lotz said.

In addition to improving their own leadership skills, the participants were tasked with devising and implementing improvement projects in their respective schools. The projects tackled pertinent issues, ranging from mathematical and literacy proficiency to social scourges such Gender Based Violence, teen pregnancy and food insecurity.

Given the low levels of interest in mathematics at Chipa Tabane, Mathabathe decided to make the subject ‘’fun, useful and doable’’ for its Grade 9 learners.

‘’We created a competition that involved an online test, a mathematics quiz, a mathematics shape game and a recitation and solving of mathematical equations. The learners say that it has made mathematics less complicated for them,’’ Mathabathe explained.

As an avid reader herself, Monametsi Shaku, the Department Head for Natural Sciences at Ramabele Secondary, wanted to create a culture of reading at her school. A donation of books led to the creation of a ‘’small, but vibrant book club for learners.’’

‘’We have a few learners who religiously visit our ‘library’ to borrow books. I can’t wait to see how this project grows,’’ Shaku said.

Ndohangwa Matoro, the Life Orientation Department Head at Chipa Tabane, believes that raising awareness around teen pregnancy, GBV and substance abuse would ensure her learners make better choices in their lives.

‘’Social workers from the Department of Social Development were invited to speak at the school. We want our learners to know that if they are struggling, there is help available,’’ Matoro said.

To tackle food insecurity among its learners, Boitumelo Mokwe, a Department Head and English, Setswana and Economic Management Sciences teacher at Ramabele Secondary, established a vegetable garden.

‘’With assistance from the Department of Agriculture, we now have a garden that provides nutritious vegetables to our learners. The garden is flourishing and were already moving to the second phase of the project,’’ Mokwe said.