LEAP Schools/Teach With Africa Educational Think Tank Initiative


In anticipation of its widely anticipated electoral victory in April 2009, the [African National Congress] (ANC) has begun looking for solutions to the current educational crisis in South Africa.  As part of this effort, ANC leaders asked Mamphela Ramphele, noted physician, author, social activist and former managing director of the World Bank, to serve as a resource both on health and educational policymaking. After accepting this role, Dr. Ramphele solicited the expertise of John Gilmour, Founder and Head of the LEAP Schools. In turn, John recently introduced several Teach With Africa (TWA) members to the process during the TWA pilot project in July and August 2008.

TWA members have contributed to this effort in multiple ways. First, TWA members participated in a planning meeting with John Gilmour and Dr. Ramphele during which they introduced the Teach for America and KIPP School models as a way to bring additional staff to under-resourced schools, develop leadership from within, bring disadvantaged students up to speed, and then successfully prepare them to gain acceptance into universities. Another TWA fellow with experience in experiential education offered suggestions on how to engage students in the classroom. Additionally, two other fellows assisted in the drafting process for Dr. Ramphele’s keynote speech which she delivered at the Colloquium on the Historic Schools Restoration Project, held on Thursday, August 14, 2008 at the University of Johannesburg. Participants, including leading South African university professors, school administrators, teachers, NGOs, policy makers – and three TWA representatives – addressed the question “Encouraging Educational Excellence – What makes for Effective Schools?” 

In her speech Dr. Ramphele introduced the idea of creating a “Third Tier” in South Africa’s educational system as a way of revitalizing and restoring these historic schools. These third tier schools would be more autonomous but still receive government funding, allowing students to attend who cannot afford private schooling. Archbishop Njongo Ndungane, Dr. Ramphele, John Gilmour and others believe that this autonomy is a crucial element to providing a more successful school model for South Africa.

In another development, TWA has connected with Teach for All, the international version of Teach for America and Teach First (UK version of Teach for America) that is about to be launched in six different countries around the globe, including South Africa. Last week, TWA and LEAP met with Kevin Fleming, the Country Relations Director for Teach for All in South Africa. Through Kevin, Teach for All has begun working collaboratively with LEAP, TWA and Dr. Ramphele in continuing to develop a successful model to effectively address the educational inequities in South Africa. 

As a result of these developments, along with the strong partnership with John Gilmour and LEAP, TWA is potentially poised to play a role in helping to shape South African educational policy, although the direction that this will take is still evolving.

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