Pimville School Goes to New Heights Under Dynamic Leader

Principal Richard Masemola of Emshukantambo Secondary reveals how developing his leadership skills through Citizen Leader Lab has taken his school to a whole new level.

Citizen Leader Lab is an award-winning leadership development organisation that builds leadership capacity in the citizenry of South Africa. It’s 12-month school leadership development programme that pairs principals from schools in under-resourced communities with business leaders from the business sector. Principals receive the support and skills needed to lead change and mobilise communities around their schools, and business leaders develop new leadership skills through exposure to the complex world of the South African public school. Masemola was paired with Kela Makwetla, a Business Support Specialist at Old Mutual.

Masemola, who is also the co-founder and executive director of NPO Teach South Africa, says that when he returned to education as the full-time principal of Emshukantambo in 2019, he immediately signed up with Citizen Leader Lab to support his new leadership venture.

‘’When I was at Teach SA, I worked with schools whose principals were on this programme. I’ve always admired Citizen Leader Lab’s work,’ he says.

Early into his principalship, he encountered learners dealing with psychosocial issues that perpetuated violence, bullying and vandalism. Many of the learners come from child-headed households and extreme poverty.

‘’This means that our efforts as school leaders are often undermined by the communities we serve,’’ says the principal.

With a mission to change this, Masemalo says that creating effective stakeholder engagement became the pair’s primary goal, adding that parents from the surrounding communities have great expectations for their children and the school they attend.

‘’This is why we wanted to create a rapport with the parents and the broader community. We wanted them to see the school as a resource, a centre of excellence. As I speak now, parents and community members regularly volunteer to keep the school clean – and all with no pay,’’ says Masemola.

The assured leader believes that his partnership with Makwetla has had a positive influence on Emshukantambo’s educators and learners, who now eagerly contribute to creating a school of excellence built on teamwork.

‘’This culture we have inculcated has helped us maintain a matric grade performance of over 80%.

My educators have also pioneered many initiatives. We now have a vibrant learner community that wants to be at school. On Youth Day, our learners held a robust debate on the legacy of the 1976 Soweto uprising and the issues that affect them today. We have sporting activities and a youth management programme,’’ says Masemola.

Echoing Masemola’s words, Deputy Principal, Pule Hlahane, praised Citizen Leader Lab for essentially empowering the whole school, from the principal right down to the School Management Team and educators.

‘’Mr Masemola empowered us by cascading the knowledge and skills he learnt. This really helped all of us assess where our school was at,’’ says Hlahane.

Through Citizen Leader Lab’s unique leadership development opportunity, you, a Business Leader, can work with a principal to address the school’s unique challenges together. Not only will you be making a difference in the school’s community, you’ll also experience new ways of leading, build your network and gain a unique perspective on the challenges facing under-resourced schools.

Citizen Leader lab is launching several groups of school principal-business leader partnerships over the coming months. To be a part of this award-winning programme, contact Audrey@Citizenleaderlab.org.