Adverts for Vacancies at Kitsong School, Phokeng, North West Province

Calling passionate and talented teachers and school managers to join the Royal Bafokeng Institute’s fledgling Kitsong School in Phokeng, North West Province.

Kitsong Principal Advert Oct 2019Kitsong School Advert Oct 2019

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First Day Back 2019 – reflections on school culture from the corridor

There is an old saying among anthropologists that fish would be the last creatures to discover water even though it is the most ubiquitous and influential aspect of a fish’s existence. So it is with school culture and teaching. Just as water surrounds and envelopes fish, shaping their perspectives and determining their courses of action, culture surrounds and envelopes teachers forming their perspectives and influencing their decisions and actions.

Teachers work within a cultural context that influences every aspect of their pedagogy and practice, yet this pervasive element of a school is elusive and difficult to define. Culture influences all aspects of schools, including such things as how the staff dresses, what staff talk about in the staff room, how teachers decorate their classrooms, their emphasis on certain aspects of the curriculum, and teachers’ willingness to change. In essence, if culture changes, everything changes.

I’ve worked in independent schools all my life and now in my current role I’m straddling the independent and public education boundary, overseeing schools instead of leading one.

As a school head, I always tried my best to stay focused on what really mattered, the enduring issues in a school. What are these enduring issues?

The first thing that concerns me is teacher morale and motivation. If they lose morale and motivation – even it be a small minority – then the energy in the school is diminished and disrupted. Wherever I’ve led, I tried to hire teachers for their hearts and their ability to form relationships with young people as much as their qualifications and intellect. People like that run on encouragement and affirmation, because that is exactly how they manage to get their students through the multiple challenges that lie before them, challenges that must be overcome by those students and not be brushed away by their teachers.

The second enduring issue is school culture and climate. School culture has been described as being similar to the air we breathe. No one notices it unless it becomes foul. The culture of a school can be a positive influence on learning or it can seriously inhibit the functioning of the school.

Several writers suggest that a school with a positive school culture is a place with a shared sense of what is important, a shared ethos of caring and concern, and a shared commitment to helping students learn. They also conclude that schools that are conducted in a culture exhibiting these positive qualities have teachers and staff members who are willing to take risks and enact reforms. In my view, if any school is to improve itself in the coming decade, the first thing it must do is to ensure that it doesn’t take its existing school culture for granted – the second thing is to avoid damaging that culture by seeking to reduce every interaction to a transaction.

The third and final enduring issue is the behaviour of its students. There is no doubt that the behaviors of young people in any school is directly and profoundly influenced by the culture in that school. Their behaviour is a symptom of their general state of happiness and connection with their school.

I am writing this as the learners of our new low fee school Kitsong are walking the corridors on their first day back after the long Christmas holidays. My office is on the corridor, last year’s energy and behaviour was affirming, collegial and hopeful. Let’s hope that 2019 sees more of the same.

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Royal Bafokeng Institute launches E-Learning Partnership with Tendopro

Through the office of Mme Monei Seloho, Provincial Public Sector Manager of Nedbank, RBI was introduced to Tendopro in March 2018. Tendopro.com is a social education platform online e-learning tool that helps learners reinforce and solidify important subject concepts taught in the classroom. Revision content is developed and sourced, both locally and from international sources, and is curated and aligned to the CAPS curriculum.

The tool delivers an informative yet fun and engaging learning experience that adapts to modern ways of accessing and consuming content. Learners are rewarded with TENDOBERRIES for interacting with content and for completing revision content and activities.

Tendopro.com launched in August 2016 with Grade 8-12 Mathematics and introduced Maths Literacy in January 2017. March 2018 saw the introduction of Grade 10-12 Physical and Life Sciences, and Grade 8-12 English FAL.

The program is currently assisting over 77000 users with a target to add another 140000 users in 2018. The company’s medium to long term aim is to give every secondary school learner and teacher in South Africa access to Tendopro.com resource.

The RBI & Tendopro Partnership will augment the existing ‘School Within a School’ programmes at Thethe and Charora and will also bring much needed resource to Matale Secondary, one of our three transitioning Middle Schools who will produce their first Grade 12 Learners at the end of this year.

Our RBI E-Learning Strategy

The most advanced E-Education strategy in South Africa has been developed by the Gauteng Education Department. The Gauteng ICT and E-Education Strategy for education spells out 6 vital Pillars for successful implementation and adoption of ICT in the teaching and learning process. These are:

• Pillar 1 – Connectivity: we now have ten connected schools with Thethe identified as a lead school for an E-Learning Pilot Programme. Our thanks to Rre Timothy Talane and RBA for their enthustiasm and commitment to growing e-learning in the RBN.

• Pillar 2 – Content: digital content available through the portal for learners and teachers. RBI is already developing Kitsong as a Full-ICT low-fee school in which all learning materials are developed for online learning, a programme that is being brilliantly developed by Principal Ken Krige and young and enthusiastic professional team. This new partnership will ensure that we can take elements of that exciting curriculum to other schools and TendoPro brings the range of variety available to every single gateway discipline. The Tendopro materials are accessible online in a format that encourages the student to engage further and rewards her/him for doing so.

• Pillar 3 – Capacity: training of teachers to on ICT, curriculum and pedagogy. It is our belief that we will achieve optimum outcomes by identifying and incentivising teachers already in the schools who have a passion for IT in the educational context. We already have that at Kitsong and this new partnership will increase the levels of proficiency in E-Learning. We will create capacity at home through support from our partner company, TendoPro: teacher development will be an important part of this process.The Department of Basic Education has also pledged its support for this process.
• Pillar 4 – Infrastructure: technical support and physical pre-requisites such as power, a secure environment for ICT and devices with which to access the resource. Again, we wish to thank the RBA IT Dept for its excellent work in this regard.

• Pillar 5 – Innovation: inter-branch management and monitoring of the study, and an innovation group to foster implementation of best practice. RBI and TendoPro have committed to establishing a formal Monitoring and Evaluation framework for this project and we intend to share results with all of our partners and funders. The Monitoring and Evaluation Framework is being developed by the RBI Quality Assurance Unit and will be implemented from 1 July 2018 through to the end of 2019.

Partnership Timeline

15 – 22 May: All Learners in Grades 8 & 9, plus all Core Mathematics Learners in Grades 10-12 at the three connected secondary schools were registered by RBI and Tendopro.
• May/June 2018: TendoPro launched the E-learning Programme in special school assemblies at Thethe (28 May), Matale (30 May) and Charora (4 June).
• June 2018: Training of Educators and IT Coordinators will be conducted by Tendopro. Tendopro will be training Mathematics and Science teachers in the use of the resource and will also train one teacher at each school to be the on-site IT Coordinator.
• July 2018 – December 2019: The RBI Quality Assurance unit will develop and test the Monitoring & Evaluation Frameworks for the Pilot E-Learning Partnership. Implementation of the M&E process is the commencement of the 3rd Term of the school year in July and the programme outc omes will be reported monthly through to the end of 2019.
Connecting to the Programme – Provision of Devices
Our Data sugg ests that less than 65% of learners at the connected secondary schools have access to a cellphone. RBI is currently speaking to funders in order to ensure that each and every Learner in Grade 8 & 9 as well as all Mathematics Learners in Grade 10 – 12 will be able to receive a simple and inexpensive cellphone with which to engage with the learning materials. We are delighted that Royal Bafokeng Platinum has kindly agreed to sponsor the provision of these devices at Charora Secondary School and we are hopeful that we will be able to source funding for the same at the other two schools on the pilot programme.
Expected results of the project
• The TendoPro database has levels of improvement that range between 5% and 120% in terms of before and after marks in formal assessments.
• The prevailing standards in Mathematics and Science in the RBN schools (and rural SA in general) is challenging and several such intervention initiatives have failed to show impact in the past. In that light, we will be aiming to show a 10% improvement in marks from Grade 8 to Grade 12 in the first year (by December 2018) and the same again in 2019.
• We also aim to report on how many hours of additional engagement with the programme materials are required for incremental improvements in each learner’s marks.

This RBI / Tendopro Partnership is being financially supported by Nedbank. The Programme Manager at RBI is Mme Gadifele Moremi. Mobilisation of Learners and Training of Educators is being led by Mr Jerome Maggerman, MD of Tendopro. The partnership is supported by the Bojanala District Office of the DBE and the Principals, SMTs and SGBs of the three schools.

Finally, this outcome is an indication of collaboration between the various Royal Bafokeng entities, for Nedbank came to our door in the first place because of a referral from Mme Boitumelo Mputle, our RBA Shared Services HR Manager. We are stronger together.

Our colleagues Rre Ken Krige and Dr Sope Maithufi will be running the Comrades this year and the motto in 2018 is ‘Asijiki – No turning back.’ Hopefully, that will apply in our RBI & Tendopro partnership too.

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The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work by James Clear

I’m sitting in my car after having parked, waiting for a workshop with MicroSoft on setting up an MS Imagine Academy out here in North West Province. The venue is Elegant Manor, a place which was my home from home for much of last year. It is situated close to my office but I haven’t been here since October last year, an eight month gap.

The ownership has changed and the managers, Suzann and Ruth, are also long gone. It looks the same, but it isn’t quite the same. Only Rre Lucky is here still. He came to chat and we reflected on how tough times are here on the Platinum Belt. How fortunate we are to have jobs. How the time of plenty is behind us and how we’ll have to learn how to do far more with far less.

In fact, that very much what I have been doing at the company too. Stabilising after a period of massive cutbacks and retrenchments, finding been shoots to give us reason to hope and build again, establishing better processes and building capacity in small ways.

Then I opened my email and this mornings thought message from James Clear is in my Inbox. It is serendipitous because we are trying to manage better and build more within tighter constraints.

The right article for the right day.

(You can read this on JamesClear.com)

In 1960, two men made a bet.

There was only $50 on the line, but millions of people would feel the impact of this little wager.

The first man, Bennett Cerf, was the founder of the publishing firm, Random House. The second man was named Theo Geisel, but you probably know him as Dr. Seuss. Cerf proposed the bet and challenged that Dr. Seuss would not be able to write an entertaining children’s book using only 50 different words.

Dr. Seuss took the bet and won. The result was a little book called Green Eggs and Ham. Since publication, Green Eggs and Ham has sold more than 200 million copies, making it the most popular of Seuss’s works and one of the best-selling children’s books in history. [1]

At first glance, you might think this was a lucky fluke. A talented author plays a fun game with 50 words and ends up producing a hit. But there is actually more to this story and the lessons in it can help us become more creative and stick to better habits over the long-run.

Here’s what we can learn from Dr. Seuss…

The Power of Constraints

What Dr. Seuss discovered through this little bet was the power of setting constraints.

Setting limits for yourself — whether that involves the time you have to work out, the money you have to start a business, or the number of words you can use in a book — often delivers better results than “keeping your options open.”

In fact, Dr. Seuss found that setting some limits to work within was so useful that he employed this strategy for other books as well. For example, The Cat in the Hat was written using only a first-grade vocabulary list.

In my experience, I’ve seen that constraints can also provide benefits in health, business, and life in general. I’ve noticed two reasons why this occurs.

1. Constraints inspire your creativity.

If you’re five foot five inches tall and you’re playing basketball, you figure out more creative ways to score than the six foot five inch guy.

If you have a one-year-old child that takes up almost every minute of your day, you figure out more creative ways to get some exercise.

If you’re a photographer and you show up to a shoot with just one lens, then you figure out more creative ways to capture the beauty of your subject than you would with all of your gear available.

Limitations drive you to figure out solutions. Your constraints inspire your creativity.

2. Constraints force you to get something done.

Time constraints have forced me to produce some of my best work. This is especially true with my writing. Every Monday and Thursday, I write a new article — even if it’s inconvenient.

This constraint has led me to produce some of my most popular work in unlikely places. When I was sitting in the passenger seat on a road trip through West Virginia, I wrote an article. When I was visiting family for the 4th of July, I wrote an article. When I spent all day flying in and out of airports, I wrote an article.

Without my schedule (the constraint), I would have pushed those articles to a different day. Or never got around to them at all. Constraints force you to get something done and don’t allow you to procrastinate. This is why I believe that professionals set a schedule for their production while amateurs wait until they feel motivated.

What constraints are you setting for yourself? What type of schedule do you have for your goals?

Related note: Sticking to your schedule doesn’t have to be grand or impressive. Just commit to a process you can sustain. And if you have to, reduce the scope.

Constraints are Not the Enemy

So often we spend time complaining about the things that are withheld from us.

“I don’t have enough time to work out.”
“I don’t have enough money to start a business.”
“I can’t eat this food on my diet.”
But constraints are not the enemy. Every artist has a limited set of tools to work with. Every athlete has a limited set of skills to train with. Every entrepreneur has a limited amount of resources to build with. Once you know your constraints, you can start figuring out how to work with them.

The Size of Your Canvas

Dr. Seuss was given 50 words. That was the size of his canvas. His job was to see what kind of picture he could paint with those words.

You and I are given similar constraints in our lives.

You only have 30 minutes to fit a workout into your day? So be it. That’s the size of your canvas. Your job is to see if you can make those 30 minutes a work of art.

You can only spare 15 minutes each day to write? That’s the size of your canvas. Your job is to make each paragraph a work of art.

You only have $100 to start your business? Great. That’s the size of your canvas. Your job is to make each sales call a work of art.

You can only eat whole foods on your diet? That’s the size of your canvas. Your job is to take those ingredients and make each meal a work of art.

There are a lot of authors who would complain about writing a book with only 50 words. But there was one author who decided to take the tools he had available and make a work of art instead.

We all have constraints in our lives. The limitations just determine the size of the canvas you have to work with. What you paint on it is up to you.

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Courage Resurfacing…. and Susan Sontag

It has been months since I bought the Sunday papers here at home in South Africa. Too much sordid news, far too much skullduggery, corruption being revealed week in and week out. But today is a Sunday and it is different: it is the first Sunday of the Ramaphosa presidency. Maybe the papers will feel compelled to change their narrative today.

In the past few days, I have been thinking about the sudden and overwhelmingly positive change in leadership, approach and intention by so many in government and in associated state entities under the new ANC leadership. So much has been written about ‘rats jumping ship’, ‘a movement towards power’, and ‘knowing which side your bread is buttered’.

How is it possible that many of the same individuals who steadfastly protected the most corrupt and venal president of our democracy could be on their feet in Parliament on Friday night roaring their approval, many with tears flowing down their cheeks? Is it all so cynical? Is it a matter of simple survival?

For people who don’t know ‘The Movement’ and who don’t fully understand the fierce loyalty and courage it took to face up to the brutality of apartheid, the loyalty of ANC cadres to their demonstrably crooked comrades is impossible to understand. Yengeni and Selebi were supported and cheered on even as they were found guilty and being transported to jail. Zuma was protected by one mob as another mob humiliated and destroyed Khwezi Kuzwayo in one of the most despicable public actions of the millennium. Under the Zuma presidency, the evidence of wrongdoing and disdain for the Constitution was so stark and incessant, and yet comrades couldn’t find the courage to do ‘the right thing’. Why?

Breaking ranks and standing up to an oppressive and racist system took immense courage: only a small minority of Black men and women ever actively fought against the apartheid regime (although it was a far bigger cohort than the tiny band of young white males who ever became Conscientious Objectors). Yet, those same courageous people seem to completely lack the courage to hold a comrade accountable. Even when the evidence is incontrovertible, even when the judge has pronounced guilt, even when there is general disgust from the general public, even when metros were being lost to the opposition in the local elections of 2016, comrades who fought the good fight against apartheid have continually been found wanting in fighting the good fight for truth and values in their own organization. And now, all of a sudden, it appears as if the better part of those same people is enabling them to finally do the right thing. Was it all about self-interest then, and is it the same now?

Susan Sontag, speaking at the presentation of the Oscar Romero Award to Yesh Gvul (“There Is a Limit”), the Israeli soldiers’ movement for selective refusal to serve in the occupied territories in 2003 spoke to the heart of the matter:

“We are all conscripts in one sense or another. For all of us, it is hard to break ranks, to incur the disapproval, the censure, the violence of an offended majority with a different idea of loyalty. …. To all out of step with one’s tribe; to step beyond one’s tribe into a world that is larger mentally but smaller numerically – if alienation or dissidence is not your habitual or gratifying posture, this is a complex, difficult process.

It is hard to defy the wisdom of the tribe: the wisdom that values the lives of members of the tribe above all others. It will always be unpopular – it will always be deemed unpatriotic – to say that the lives of the members of the other tribe are valuable as ones own.

It is easier to give to one’s allegiance to those we know, to those we see, to those with whom we are embedded, to those with whom we share – as we may – a community of fear.

… Fear binds people together. And fear disperses them. Courage inspires communities: the courage of an example – for courage is as contagious as fear. But courage, certain kinds of courage, can also isolate the brave.

The perennial destiny of principles: while everyone professes to have them, they are likely to be sacrificed when they become inconveniencing. Generally a moral principle is something that puts one at variance with accepted practice. And that variance has consequences, sometimes unpleasant consequences, as the community takes its revenge on those who challenge its contradictions – who want a society actually to uphold the principles it professes to defend.

The standard that a society should actually embody its own professed principles is actually a utopian one, in the sense that moral principles contradict the way things really are – and always are. How things really are – and always will be – is neither all evil nor all good but deficient, inconsistent, inferior. Principles invite us to do something about the morass of contradictions in which we function morally. Principles invite us to clean up our act, to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and cowardice and the turning away from what is upsetting: that secret gnawing of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right, and so counsels us that we’d be better off just not thinking about it. ”

There are those who ridicule the MPs of the ANC for getting rid of Zuma in February after having refused to do so on several previous occasions, most recently in August 2017. There are those who want to see the ANC pull itself asunder in order to remove every last ounce of loyalty and comradeship.

There are those who want to see President Ramaphosa embark on a wholesale clear out of Ministers and MPs with ties to the Zupta Patronage system. There are those who say Ramaphosa himself is unfit to be President as he sat next to Zuma for over five years and protected him on several occasions. There are those who jeered on Friday night as President Ramaphosa paid tribute to his immediate predecessor.

Those people have not fully considered immense risk that comes with breaking ranks. To be out in the cold in the worst place to be.

Many of those people – practically all of those people – are conscripts to a particular ‘tribe’ too.

Courage can exist just underneath the surface of compliance and fear. We are seeing that courage surface again.

Right, I’m off to buy the Sunday papers!

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What is it about some people? 

I have just walked back to my office after saying good bye to R. I didn’t know her four months ago and this evening I can’t imagine next week without her. I am not sure that I have ever met someone who has become so important to me in such a short period (my wife excluded!).
 

Oh, this isn’t romantic or anything like that. This is respect, admiration, gratitude and impending loss of limb. You see, R has been my Ops Manager since I became CEO of the company at the start of the year.

On Day 1, we alighted from our cars together, did the introductions, started to chat, and it has just kept going since then. That we hadn’t met before didn’t matter at all. She made sense, she made me welcome and she made the challenges ahead all seem perfectly manageable. I am not sure that I could have landed safely without her.

Her energy is infectious, her grace is calming, her competence unquestioned. When a payment or delivery is not done on time, R puts on her serious voice – you don’t want to be the subject of her ire. Yet, she is loved universally. Everyone knows where they stand with her. The epitome of integrity.

Right now, she is driving home to her family in the city down the road, a hundred miles away. That has been her daily journey for nearly seven years and they tell me that she has never had a single grumpy day (really?). You see, R has always believed in what our company has been trying to achieve and she has never let the inevitable disappointments and setbacks quench her flame or dash her hope. She is a builder.

So, to you whom I didn’t know on New Year’s Day, I can’t believe how much loss I am feeling as I bid you farewell and see you leave for your new season. I am going to have to start walking by myself from now on.

Good colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done. Surely I need more than four months of mentoring?

What is it about some people!

 

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The fortification of an assuring hug from someone you love!

“There is nothing so empty as he beginning of a journey when you have not been fortified by the assuring hug of someone you love.”      Michael Harding, Hanging with the Elephant 

In my previous life as the head of a boys’ school, I was often dismayed by the absence of care and love between parents and their children. An essential component of great schools is that they allow young people to stretch and take risks, to learn from their mistakes and to develop a healthy sense of self. The active care and love of a parent or sibling or family member makes that journey to wisdom and adulthood more authentic and fulfilling.

In so many cases, especially here in South Africa, the affluent parent is sometimes more concerned with his/her own social or business life than the life of their child. When such parents pay attention at all, more often than not, it is to bail their child out of a difficult situation or to sweep the obstacles from the path before their child. It isn’t enabling parenting and it doesn’t lead to resilient and self-sufficient children.

In my life as a head, I encountered such parents more frequently than was healthy and I saw too many boys at sea because they didn’t have a family anchor in their lives. If such anchors existed at all it was often a teacher or the parent of another boy who saw the need and filled it. It would also be true to say that the frequency of such careless and absent parents became more pronounced by the year. The trend among the well to do in our country is undoubtedly towards outsourcing parenting.

There is a big and audacious rite of passage event that we introduced in 2005. It was risky then and it is risky still. In fact, as I write this blog, the whole of the Year 10 cohort are out in the South African veld on a 23-day odyssey that challenges each boy – body, mind and spirit. Sadly, some of those boys will have embarked on this journey without the reassurance or fortification of someone they loved. They will have gone through the first day empty and they will most probably have had that same empty feeling after each mail drop as they journeyed through the veld.

Some of those same young men will return on the final day from this awesome rite of passage from boyhood to manhood with a sense of dread. The dread of returning to the reality of regular life, the dread of not knowing whether there will be even one member of his family there to welcome him home – to validate his achievement, to fill his heart with assurance and love.

What is that allows some parents to put their own needs and busyness ahead of the welfare of the children they have brought into the world? Is it perhaps that there is a meeting or a round of golf that is more pressing or important? Is it that they don’t know that the hurt and damage caused in one generation can proliferate and multiply though the generations to come?

We all make such parenting mistakes. In fact, I have done it myself this morning. But each day has time in it in which the wrongs of the morning can be corrected in the afternoon. If you haven’t given that child of yours a hug yet today, do it before the sun sets. And if your child is out on a journey somewhere, make sure you are there to receive them back.

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