How PfP transformed Tembisa’s Khula Sizwe Primary School

JOHANNESBURG — In this podcast, Louisa Mvelo – who is the school principal of Khula Sizwe Primary School in Tembisa – tells us how the Partners for Possibility programme has helped completely transform and improve her school. It’s an example of what can be done to vastly improve South Africa’s creaking educational system. – Gareth van Zyl

Louisa Mvelo is the school principal of Khula Sizwe Primary School in Tembisa and it’s a pleasure to welcome her on this podcast. Louisa, your school got involved with Partners for Possibility. Can you tell you us a bit more about your school and why it got involved with PfP?

Thank you so much and thank you for having me. My school is situated in the heart of Old Tembisa but we are catering for learners that are around the area. Our area is called the Mqantsa section but we are catering for learners in the informal settlements. We also have children in the RDP houses around our school. We have a learner role of 1249 learners and 37 staff members. The socioeconomic background of our learners is not that great but, as a school, we are doing everything that we can to ensure that they come out of this school with a positive attitude towards life. They’re involved in a lot of activities – both curricular and extra-curricular activities. We have won a lot of competitions and for me personally, I joined PfP for my personal development and for collaboration and I have gained more than that. PfP is like a family that enables you as a principal, to do anything that you can ever think of doing.

Which business did you partner with in terms of the PfP Program and what benefits have they brought to your school?

I have partnered with Paul Serfontein from EOH Eastgate Branch. I have benefited a lot from him and from this programme. EOH is the largest IT company in Africa and through EOH as a school, we are able to achieve a lot of things. If you can come to our school, the fence is now painted. The classes are painted. We have tiled the classrooms. We have a working computer and personally, as a principle, I am more confident now. I am able to go out there and do things. With EOH, we have partnered in such a way that we are going to upskill our community. It is not only going to benefit our learners. There are programmes that are in the pipeline, programmes like welding, programs like computers, and building – those programmes that will upskill our parents and the community around us. Through that, because our community’s socioeconomic environment is not that good, they will be certificated so that they can be employable.

What difference does this make to the kids? They must feel like they’re much better off than what they were previously.

They actually are because right now, they are able to go into the computer lab and check the whole information. They are able to play games. They are able to do research. They are able to do whatever they can. Even the teachers’ morale has improved so much. Like I said earlier, we are involved in a lot of competitions around us. We have a Spelling Bee. We have maths competitions. We are actually the SA netball champs. That is how far we have gone. Everything has fallen into place. The teachers are more confident now. They are more competitive now and the parents, also, are more supportive now because we are involving them in everything that we are doing as a school. We are also even upskilling them and caring for them to show that they are just only parents, but that they are part of us.

How long do you see this programme lasting for? Do you think this is a permanent program that’s going to be in place or is there a time limit to it?

We don’t have a time limit. My partner Paul and I are married for life. That is how we refer to ourselves – married for life. He is going to be here. I am going to be here. Yes, until maybe we resign or God remembers us. It’s an ongoing programme.

And just the name of your partner again…. you said that his first name is Paul. Can we have his full name as well?

It’s Paul Serfontein.

What would you say to other schools and businesses looking to get involved with the PfP program? Why should they get involved with this programme according to your opinion and view?

I would really encourage businesses and schools be involved in this programme because this program is beneficial. I was a fairly new principal when I started but now, the confidence that I’ve gained, the rewards that I received… You know, sometimes it is difficult for the business people to understand what is going on in the school and it is difficult for the schools to understand what is going on in the business but if we collaborate…if we work together… You know, they say collaboration is the new innovation. If we do that, then we take our schools forward. We learn from them. They learn from us. There are things that they are taking away and there are things that we are taking away, so the schools would really, really benefit. I have realised that we should run our schools as businesses and not just as institutions and the business knowledge comes in really handy.

Louisa, it’s been fascinating talking to you. Thank you so much for telling us about this programme and I’m sure that a lot of people who listen to this podcast will hopefully try and support your school more and other schools as well.

Thank you very, very much.

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