At the start of the 2015 Conference of the Southern African Bursars of Independent Schools Association (SABISA), convened in Durban in late October, we held a moment of silence to honour the memory of the late Sandile Ndaba, director: Policy and Government Relations for the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa.
Sandile took a keen interest in this magazine when, in 2010, the new Independent Education team was tasked with realigning ISASA’s flagship publication with the association’s foundational principles of quality, values and diversity. In meetings, he struck me as a man whose innate dignity commanded respect from all present. I appreciated that he listened carefully, speaking only when necessary – and, in doing so, striking each time at the heart of the matter, sometimes with a broad smile that warmed your heart.
Sandile believed passionately in the right of schools to their independence, as his eloquent article on page 14 shows. He would have been both interested in and well-versed with the subject matter of the SABISA 2015 conference: ‘Business Risk Assessment – A Risky Business’.
There should not be a single sensible person involved in schooling in this country who is not aware of the multiple risk factors facing the education sector, ranging from the increasing raft of legislative constraints to the perennial challenge of enrolment figures.
Indeed, one may have experienced profound anxiety at the conference whilst listening to the potential threats your school may face – from social media ‘stressors’ (see page 74 to update yourself on the horrors of cyberbullying) to excursion-related events (on page 11 you will meet a young hero from Hilton College in KwaZulu-Natal).
Yet, the sensible soul knows that there is inherent risk in stepping outside every single day, and would have drawn comfort from the advice given at the conference to anticipate risks realistically, to analyse their impact, and to monitor their influence, adjusting the school’s operational models to maintain its sustainability.
Sensible schools also value being members of an association such as ISASA, which can provide expert advice in all aspects of school risk management.
With such support at their backs, independent schools can – and do – go about their business with courage and conviction. As ISASA’s membership Education Published by ISASA Publishing grows, so do stories reach our magazine about schools that flourish in the knowledge that southern African parents are increasingly turning to quality-assured independent education institutions to prepare their children for a risky future.
Highly respected and long-time ISASA member, Vuleka School in Johannesburg, is poised to open a new boys’ school in Sophiatown in 2016 (see page 28). “It has long been the dream of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba,” says Lu-ann Bure. “The boys who come to our school would never have been able to afford average existing private school fees, so we have made quality education accessible to them.”
Says Noel Coetzee, who heads up new members Pembury Lifestyle Group (PLG) Willow View Academy (Gauteng) and PLG Ballito Academy (KwaZulu-Natal) on page 21, “The response to the opening of these new schools, often in areas where there is a dearth of suitable schools, has been phenomenal.” Another new member, Country College and Country Kids in Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga (see page 22), has adopted what principal Janet Rowse calls “a circular motto”: ‘Love to learn to live’. “It’s a predictor, we believe, of success,” says Rowse. And in the largely impoverished area of Mitchells Plain in Cape Town in the Western Cape, where he and his colleagues have opened the Trinity Children’s Centre, says Renier Coetzee (page 38): “Our dream is to walk with children for 10 formative years, because we believe that investing for a decade in their lives will multiply, through them, into the lives of others for many decades to come.”
We have included many stories in this edition of Independent Education that will reassure you that risk lives alongside hope. Whether you are a futurist, a tech-savvy teacher, an artist or a scientist, we believe you will find something between the covers to inspire you as you plan for 2016. On page 32, for example, Warren Marks and Sue Lazenby ask: “Are you a risk- taking educator looking for a different international experience?”
In wishing you well at the end of another hectic year, I offer you two quotes. Said the great poet T.S. Eliot, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.” Looking at the issue from another angle, actress Geena Davis, who took the ultimate risk alongside Susan Sarandon in the film Thelma and Louise, said: “If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.”