The Penreach Courageous Leadership Development Programme Communities of Practice (PCLDP)

Thembi Nkosi walked away as the provincial winner in the category Excellence in Primary School Leadership at the 2019 National Teacher Awards and deserves every accolade coming her way. Appointed as principal of Nklosheni Primary in 2007, she is a trailblazer and a shining example of what can be achieved with good management and the right motivational skills.

Leadership is in her blood, she says, and trusting your team is everything. “Running a successful school can never be a one-man show. You need to listen to people, acknowledge their ideas and work hand-in-hand with your colleagues. Appreciate their talents and capabilities – and make use of those skills.”

Being honoured with a provincial award is a great source of pride (she also came third in the Grade R teacher category) and she credits PCLDP for giving her the impetus to enter. “I had gained so many skills and knowledge through the programme, that I felt ready to go and test them.”

The Penreach Courageous Leadership Programme takes a role model approach to train, coaching and mentoring primary school leadership, to boost the delivery capacity of the school. Sustainability is secured through Communities of Practice (COP), where principals get together to support and gain insight from each other.

“I am grateful to be part of the programme,” Thembi says. “There are things you learn from a degree, theory, but when it comes to the practice, you wonder about how to implement it. PCLDP made leading more practical. You can’t learn everything in a book, and sometimes you need guidance. The workshops made me a better person.”

To her, the most powerful part is the COP, getting principals together and sharing common problems and frustrations. “We chat, we find out what everybody else is doing, we help each other. For some issues, we don’t have solution, but knowing we are in the same boat is already a comfort.” 

She has a pragmatic approach to achieving success. While acknowledging the importance of dreams, she believes they account for nothing without focus and good planning. “What makes a person successful doesn’t come from the outside environment, but starts inside you,” she says. “Know what you want to achieve and stick to it.”

She also doesn’t accept blaming circumstances or a scarcity of resources for a lack of success. She’s built up her school from contributions by her parents and community. “The parents weren’t supporting our school, but I realised we were going about it the wrong way in trying to get them involved. We were always focusing on the financial side, but they can offer themselves in other ways. I invited them to bring any assistance.”

She’s turned things around, and whenever the school gets involved in a project, whether a new garden for the Grade R’s, or a community clean-up campaign, parents arrive in numbers. “They have a sense of ownership about the school,” she says. “They assist us in safeguarding the premises.”

She regards the setting up of a computer room as one of her greatest achievements. Made possible by a donation of second-hand equipment, it has also created employment for a local woman, who was hired to assist pupils. They’ve also signed up for Water Explorer, an international initiative setting stringent environmental goals for the school, encouraging children make a difference in their own backyard.

“It goes much further than planting grass and flowers at the school,” she explains. “It’s a whole eco-drive involving the clean-up of streams, planting trees and saving water. For us to qualify, we had to come up with an integrated plan to tackle environmental issues.” By the end of the year, they will have report back and produce measurable results.

The school has been honoured with numerous awards and accolades, recognised as an outstanding resource by the community. “People have trust and confidence in the school. Our enrolment figures have increased tremendously, because parents believe in our potential to educate their kids. I don’t want to disappoint them,” she smiles.

Thembi Nkosi
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