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Nova Pioneer leads students into the future

| March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

Over the last 20 years, the world has experienced exponential change.

Things we considered as merely science fiction then are now commonplace. All spheres of life and business evolve continuously, and only those able to adapt will succeed. It is within this environment that knowledge becomes power, and education the currency of the new world. It is therefore vital that we invest in our future – our children – and provide the very best education possible. One institution leading the charge is Nova Pioneer, a proudly African independent school network that builds and operates world-class facilities offering affordable education. As testament to its commitment and perseverance to excellence, Nova Pioneer, an ISASA member since 2015, is celebrating some fantastic results achieved by its first class of Grade 12s since opening in 2015. The Nova Pioneer concept is the brainchild of Chinezi Chijioke,1 whose vision is to produce world-class leaders and thinkers in Africa to drive the continent forward. This Harvard and Stanford graduate has a lifelong passion for education, and always dreamed of being a part of a team that would develop schools across Africa to unleash the incredible potential of the continent’s youth. He explains further: We started this journey in 2015 with our first school in Ormonde, Johannesburg, South Africa, and I am thrilled to say that we are celebrating our first Grade 12 class [in 2019]. It is both exciting and humbling to experience the realisation of a dream, but the biggest point of pride comes from observing who our students have become. It has been so wonderful to watch them grow into thoughtful, confident and inspiring young men and women, each with a unique vision for their futures and how they can make the world better.

Character, capability and connection

Part of Chijioke’s vision was to offer a holistic education to his students. This meant not only attending to their scholastic needs, but also building character, he says: We build the learning experience on three specific pillars: character, capability and connection, and the class of 2019 exemplified these traits. Looking at their character
and personal growth, who they have become, is simply phenomenal. Secondly, when gauging their capabilities, we see real-world problem-solvers who have become innovation leaders who go beyond mere academic excellence. Lastly, we have created a connection. This is not only among the students, but between scholars and staff members as well, which will endure for a lifetime. These three tenets – character, capability and connection – have paid outstanding dividends since the school’s inception and, although a young institution, Chijioke believes that Nova Pioneer has created a solid evidence base upon which to evaluate and elevate its impact: There are so many success stories we can share, but a few that stand out in my mind must be Lesedi Mnguni, who has competed for two years in the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge,2 was a top 20 finalist in 2018, and a gold certificate recipient in the 2019 competition. Additionally, a number of our students are currently applying to universities outside of South Africa, including the US.

Instructional leadership

Echoing Chijioke’s sentiments, Theuns Opperman, head of the senior school at Nova Pioneer, also attributes the success of this first graduating class to the unique methodologies employed at the school and the holistic approach to teaching that is at the core of everything they do: There is an unapologetic focus on instructional leadership in [our] classrooms which is not found in many South African schools. Instructional leadership essentially means that the deans spend as much time as possible in the classrooms, collaborating with the teachers, to help enhance not only the teaching practices but the learning experiences as well. This level of observation, analysis and then workshopping solutions around instruction, as both a science and an art form, is vitally important to keep both teachers and students focused on their goals and ensure motivation levels remain high throughout the school year. Last year’s group of graduates is evidence to this commitment to education and, being Nova Pioneer’s first graduating Grade 12 class, the results were definitely something to celebrate, enthuses Opperman: We have seen some phenomenal growth in our students over the last few years. Their achievement is a combination of the environment in which they learn, the dedication of the teachers and their own hard work – they are the drivers of their own success. We create what I can only refer to as a deliberate environment, where we focus on all the pieces of the puzzle to achieve a defined goal. There is a culture in the school that inspires students to be intentional in going all out to reach their full potential. This is not unique to us, and many schools aspire to this ethos, but the excitement of being part of a really big vision to create tangible growth and development, inspires and excites both teachers and students alike.

A ‘can do’ mentality

According to Opperman, this ethos is embedded in the very ethos of Nova Pioneer to make real, tangible changes to the lives of learners: We have a number of cultural principles that we adhere to, and these are inculcated into the students in every lesson and every interaction, and we have seen remarkable results. There is a definite ‘can do’ mentality from all our students. As a result, a number of students from our inaugural Grade 12 class have shown remarkable fortitude by making a conscious effort to improve their grades, resulting in a much clearer tertiary path, ranging from acceptance to South African universities or writing entrance examinations for US colleges. Among this group of graduates are students who joined us in Grade 8 who were significantly behind
the academic expectations of our Cambridge curriculum.3 They have, however, realised tremendous growth, and it is ultimately growth that we seek most in all our students. An example is a student who joined us in Grade 8 and was battling to get a passing mark. During her first year, she managed only a 40% average in English, but she fostered a growth mindset and greater self-belief – a hallmark of many of the Nova Pioneer students – and the results speak for themselves. She recently wrote her Cambridge international exams and managed to get an A aggregate. This is a stunning achievement. It just goes to show, when you are given the opportunity, and when people believe in you, anything is possible. With the class of 2019, Nova Pioneer has really made its mark on the education sector. One of the more difficult tasks facing any new enterprise is proving your concept, and the outcomes and achievements of the graduating Grade 12 class is positive proof that Nova Pioneer is delivering on its vision of developing innovators and leaders capable of shaping the future. The last word goes to Chijioke: The journey has required huge effort on the part of every ‘Novaneer’ – faculty and students alike – and has, of course, come with challenges, but seeing our students step up and excel, more than they each may have previously imagined of themselves, there is no doubt that it’s all absolutely worth it. But this is just a start – for them and for us. Ultimately, we will measure our success not by where our students are at graduation, but by the lives they lead, the fulfilment they find, and by the impact they have on the world.

Nova Pioneer network is currently operational in both Kenya and South Africa, and will have 13 schools in Nairobi and Johannesburg in 2020.


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Category: Autumn 2020

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