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By Youth For Youth Leadership Summit at Kingswood College

| June 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Debbie Smuts

At the end of the 2014 school year, 53 pupil leaders from 23 schools in South Africa gathered at Kingswood College in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape for the By Youth For Youth (BY4Y) Leadership Summit.

While the rest of the country started the summer school holidays, these future leaders, most of whom were head boys and head girls of their schools, spent five days in high-powered discussions and activities designed to expose them to a range of leadership concepts and practical applications.

The summit was coordinated by Kingswood development director, Craig Andrew and teacher Ian Knott-Craig. Participating schools included Kingswood College, Mary Waters Senior Secondary School, Graeme College, Victoria Girls’ High School, Ntsika Senior Secondary School and TEM Mrwetyana High School (all from Grahamstown); Union High School (Graaff-Reinet); St George’s College (Port Elizabeth); Merrifield College, Clarendon High School and Sakhikamva Senior Secondary School (East London); Get Ahead Academy and Lingelihle Senior Secondary School (Queenstown); Kearsney College, KwaNtebeni Comprehensive High School, The Wykeham Collegiate, Russell High School, St Anne’s Diocesan College (KwaZulu-Natal); Elkanah House and Inkwenkwezi High School (Cape Town); Trinity House and Randburg High School ( Johannesburg); and Cathcart High School (Cathcart). In most cases, schools were encouraged to ‘twin’ with a less-resourced school from their area so that pupil leaders could support each other beyond the summit and into the future.

They believe they can achieve

Parliamentarian Annette Lovemore, the shadow minister for basic education for the Democratic Alliance,1 attended the event and said afterwards: “What I saw at Kingswood College at the BY4Y Summit was, without exaggeration, revolutionary. All the children were assumed to be capable of leadership. All of the 53 children representing 23 schools were… capable of generating answers to complex philosophical and practical problems. All the children were exposed to experts, with the very strong underlying message that each child was worth that exposure. Learners treated in this way, I have no doubt, will feel strongly encouraged to believe that they can achieve.”

Distinguishing styles

The BY4Y Leadership Summit was sponsored by the British High Commission.2 Discussions were led by local experts including Trevor Amos and Noel Pearse from Rhodes University Business School,3 Louise Vincent from the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes4 and Pedro Tabensky from the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics at Rhodes.5 Each morning, the sessions were kickstarted by a presentation on leadership, before the participants got involved in more participatory workshop activities, one of which involved building a tall tower with spaghetti sticks and marshmallows in a session led by Colleen Vassiliou, acting director of Student Affairs at Rhodes.6 She urged the pupils to observe different leadership styles. Participants had to distinguish ‘doers’, ‘feelers’, ‘thinkers’ and ‘watchers’.

Cry the beloved country In a moving presentation in the final morning session, the pupils were addressed by the newly appointed Rhodes University vicechancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela,7 who said that there was “no greater honour than to serve humanity with integrity, humility and dignity”. Mabizela said that the BY4Y summit was critically important given the leadership challenges that face South Africa. “Our country is crying out for leadership; our country is yearning for good leadership, values-based leadership, caring leadership, compassionate leadership, bold and courageous leadership, moral and ethical leadership, responsible and accountable leadership; leadership which, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, does not only inspire confidence in people but that inspires people to have confidence in themselves,” he said.

Be the change

Khanya Jonas from Victoria Girls’ High School in Grahamstown said of the summit: “I’ve learned about a lot of important qualities that leaders should possess, but the most important thing I’ve picked up is that you should aim to make a change or difference, and that leading should be a natural result of that. Set a good example for those you work with, communicate well and be passionate. It all needs to begin with you!”

The head girl of Mary Waters High School, also in Grahamstown and the ‘twin’ school to Kingswood College, Shaolin Rademeyer, said, “You don’t have to be born a leader, but you ought to have a desire to lead.”

The British consul general to South Africa, Chris Trott,8 was on hand for the official opening of the summit, with a powerful reminder of the leadership legacy left by Nelson Mandela. It was fitting, he said, to remember the great statesman at such an event.

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Category: Featured Articles, Winter 2015

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