-Axium is our father who ploughs our fields
As 2019 comes to a close, we have reached the halfway mark of our Public Schools Partnership with our eight partner schools, ~1600 learners and ~60 teachers in Amanjingqi.
We had an incredible opportunity to spend two days together with the Senior Management Teams (SMTs) from the eight schools. This opportunity provided time out of the busyness of school routines and end-of-year tiredness to reflect on the year past; plan for 2020; learn from one another; and build community amongst our eight schools. As Sibusiso Zulu, our newly appointed School Operations Manager says, “Principals and school leaders often experience problems in silos, they are cocooned in schools. With a gathering like this, you can learn from each other, share challenges and get training and development on the functions, roles and responsibilities of an SMT.”
SMTs play an important role at all schools in South Africa because they are leadership bodies made up of representatives from different facets of the school. SMTs are responsible for capacitating their schools so that they can effectively focus on the core business of school - teaching and learning. Regional Manager, Jacob Junior Chirumanzi never missed an opportunity to remind principals and school leaders of the importance of this time together and provide motivation for the challenges that lay ahead, “Don’t forget that every other profession comes from the hand of a teacher, let us acknowledge this and appreciate the nation builders here in the room.”
Over the course of two days, we were able to discuss:
The Amajingqi PSP, 2 years in:
We had a project re-orientation where we could align on expectations and challenges experienced with the partnership and introduce new team members. There was an emphasis placed on the word partnership, as Mr Zulu said, “we are not here to help or to assist but to support” – to work out strategies together to navigate the problems.
How are our schools doing?
We used the 5 Essential Supports as a Framework for assessing where schools are two years into the partnership. Team leaders huddled together and discussed their progress, using red (off track), orange (off track but could make progress with help) and green (on track for success) stickers to rate their schools. We will use these maps together to know where to focus and what to prioritize in 2020.
What are the ‘Big Rocks’ for 2020
Principals often have to perform a juggling act, managing many different roles and responsibilities. The team urged the importance of understanding one’s school and prioritizing the pertinent issues or ‘Big Rocks’ as we like to call them at Axium. The priorities decided on for 2020 were: SGB, Principals, data & attendance and teacher professional development.
Other sessions included generating buy in for assessments and data and how they can help us in our partnership; Engaging conversations about key policies such as pregnancy, initiation, sexual orientation, sexual harassment, corporal punishment and bullying. Babalwa Mtumtum, our Relationship Manager, stated, “a child must be seen as a child before anything else; they must not be discriminated against.”; as well as starting to develop School Improvement Plans for 2020.
The goal of this Public Schools Partnership is to improve the learning of children in Amajinqgi. Mr Makhaphela, ECDoE Circuit Manager, shared some thoughts on the partnership, “We have met partners before who dump computers and leave us. At the end of the day you will find no improvement in our schools. This partnership is the opportunity to ensure that we flourish as principals. Partnership is a two-way thing. Let us harness Axium’s team. We have learnt about Big Rocks – let’s prioritise this partnership and make it a success. You can become the best principal when you have support- take it!”
In the final reflection session, one of the principals shared some encouragement for the year ahead, “At times it’s not easy being a principal…and you think to yourself, why don’t I pack my stuff and go, but you have to think of your school – without you, they won’t be able to make the knowledge and expertise and experience that you have accumulated. To everyone who sacrificed their time spending two days here – you never doubted the fact that today you had to be here, that is acknowledged and appreciated. Let’s roll up our sleeves and go back to the field and work as hard as we can, hoping that we will be having a successful 2020.”
We are hoping to keep building momentum for these events, as it is an important and rare opportunity to come together to have these conversations. While we are all tired from a busy and intense year, we are excited that we could end the year on such a high note. These conversations will continue throughout the year as our team continues to support schools and their leaders.
A catchphrase was coined over the course of the event, “UAxium nguTata wethu olisimelayo” meaning Axium is our father who ploughs our fields. Babalwa explained that, "Our schools have limited resources and support and Axium’s role, like the farmer assisting a neighbour by ploughing their field when they don’t have the capacity, is to support schools trying to close the gaps in the system.”