Mary Drury

5 December, 2010

‘Me an engineer? That’s what grown-ups do!’

I was born in England in the late 60s into a comfortable university educated family with an English teacher mother and chemist father. I was the youngest of three and, I think for reasons of nature rather than nurture, was very slow to develop – this was in stark contrast to my elder brother who was considered to be exceptionally bright. At primary school, despite being a slow reader and complaints from my teachers that I ‘did nothing’, my parents did believe that there might be more going on in this serious child’s head and it is credit to their support in these early years that I eventually stopped watching and started doing.

My parents chose for me to attend the less prestigious secondary school, a different school to my siblings, because there was less streaming of abilities and so they believed I would have more chance of catching up. This worked for me and in my teens I developed a theoretical interest in and aptitude for maths and sciences.  However I lacked any practical confidence. My father tinkered with an old boat and did some DIY but I do not remember that he encouraged any of us to get involved. My mother was/is a self confessed technophobe – finding the tuning of the radio beyond her – and I felt myself to be like her.  I also found it difficult to conform at school and I think that one of my secrets for success later in a male dominated world is that, as often the only woman, I was no longer expected to conform. However, in the 6th form I floundered again as the only girl in the Physics class with a sarcastic male teacher and no class friends and eventually dropped out with glandular fever. I did however return the following year determined to prove to the teachers that I could do it and, much to their surprise, got good grades and a place at York University to study Theoretical Physics.

The real turning point for me was when I spent a life changing week at the Centre for Alternative Technology in North Wales.  The whole ethos of the place made me realise I wanted to do something useful and practical, but I also had an important conversation with the girlfriend of one of the volunteers who complained that she was not being allowed to learn how to use the lathe.  She believed that if she had been a man they would have let her use it but, because women are seen as inherently unpractical, she was not considered safe. She said that the problem was that most women don’t spend their childhood tinkering with cars both because they are not expected to and because they don’t believe they can.  Without knowing it she was talking about me and so shortly after I switched to the much more practical Engineering Design and Appropriate Technology course at the University of Warwick.

It came as quite a shock when I started the course and it fully sank in that I was now studying engineering, a rather practical course for a technophobe. There were only 15 students in my year – 3 of whom were women – with a high proportion of mature and foreign students who were also there because they wanted to do something useful and practical. We had a separate work/common room where we could share ideas and across all years, getting encouragement, help and inspiration from those further on in the course. It was here that I came to understood that a woman’s apparent lack of ability is so often lack of confidence, a natural assumption that she can’t where a man would assume he could.

I was so inspired by tales of others’ experiences in the field that, before my final year, I took an 8 month placement in rural Zimbabwe testing the manufacture and operation of pumps for small scale irrigations. In my childhood my father’s interest in Zimbabwean politics meant we had a series of refugees stay with us, opening a small window into a world outside; this fuelled my enthusiasm to visit that country. I had never been out of Europe before and so it was an enormously challenging time as I was on my own, both culturally and technically, with a practical task to complete and no-one but myself to do it.  I lived in a training centre where rural people (mostly women) came to learn practical skills, such as soap making and pig keeping, and I could see that small projects like mine could make a big difference to their lives. But it is a tribute to a man called Israel, who believed in both me and the project, that I realised I really could be an engineer.

I graduated with a First Class Engineering Degree, which was probably only important for the 4 weeks until I got my first job as a trainee engineer with a hydro turbine and pump manufacturer in the north of England. Engineering can be a very old fashioned environment and I discovered a number of months after I had started work that women were not allowed to wear trousers – no-one had had the courage to tell me! It was a small company but there was another female trainee engineer who complained bitterly that she was not taken seriously because she was a woman. I decided early on that the best way to gain respect was to be good at what I did and that my femaleness was just one attribute of who I am which could provide as many opportunities as problems in the working environment. I might be treated differently, but so might someone who was short, tall, black, fat, thin, pretty, ugly, wore glasses, had the wrong accent or simply didn’t fit in. I have built a career as an engineer in hydropower with many years spent designing, commissioning and troubleshooting the control systems, often having up to 16,000kW of power at my fingertips. I cannot recall feeling obstructed because of being a woman and I think there are a number of occasions where it may have assisted me because  my open co-operative approach could sometimes disarm otherwise difficult people.

The real obstacle was motherhood which came as a surprise because the problem came from within myself.  Apart from the practicalities, I no longer felt able to stay away for indefinite commissioning periods because of the physical ache of the separation from my children.   Is the glass ceiling perhaps sometimes self induced?  So I coasted for a number of years and considered giving up work. But someone has to earn the money so we made the family choice for me, the younger partner, to become the sole earner and a role model to our two girls while my husband focused on the childcare.

I am now a chartered engineer responsible for the construction of new hydro power stations, thus increasing the UK’s renewable energy capacity.  I had thought I might go back to Africa but my life did not lead me there and I have found enough that needs doing to help reduce the excesses of my own country. I am the only female Project Manager in my organisation – a surprising fact as I believe that women are natural organisers – but I never feel marginalised or discriminated against because of my gender. My work environment is dominated by men in the sometimes quite rough construction industry but it is a great job because it is so real and practical and I can see how I am making a difference. When I left school I very nearly took the wrong path because I did not have the confidence to believe I could actually contribute in such a practical way. I am so glad I changed my mind, though I do still sometime laugh at myself – ‘Me an engineer? That’s what grown-ups do!’

Lalage Bown

8 December, 2009


  I was born before women in Britain had full voting rights, before education beyond primary schooling was available for the mass of people and when the majority of the British did not question the idea of Empire; so I have therefore had the inspiration of directly witnessing change in the status and role of women, the wider diffusion of education around the world and the dissolution of Empire, followed by the emergence of the Commonwealth.

 My basic academic training was in Modern History, so that my work has been informed by historical perspectives; this has made it easier to take a long view and not to expect instant change over night, but has encouraged me to persist in advocacy, knowing that ideas and actions can be transformed over time. Among causes I have been involved in have been gender justice (including as a founding trustee of Womankind Worldwide), equality in education (my professional concern) and the significance of the Commonwealth as an organisation with no military purpose and based on common values. My career was in university adult education, in Africa and Britain, and I gained leadership rather young (I was the first woman professor of adult education in the Commonwealth), which in my field meant constant political engagement, both inside and outside the institution.

 Three influences were fundamental to my life and career. First, my mother, who retained a lively and enquiring mind until her death at the age of almost 98 She had a good secondary education and passed the university entrance examinations of those days, but she had no chance of going further, because at that time, British girls were pushed out onto the marriage market. When my father proposed to her, she laid down one condition: that any daughters would have equal educational opportunities with any sons they might have. I owe it to her therefore that I had the chance of a good education, though as the eldest of four, I accepted that I had to help pay my way with scholarships etc.

 Secondly, I went to Somerville College, Oxford, in an era when  few people had any chance of a university education and among them only a very small number of women; there were 600 women compared to 6,000 men students at Oxford in 1945. This gave me an abiding sense of privilege and therefore of obligation, both to use my education for the benefit of others and to do my best to find ways in which the wider public could share in the services of universities. The atmosphere in the college (then for women only) was one in which the majority of us were motivated by ideas of social justice, including a rebalancing of society for gender equality.

 Thirdly, my father’s working life was in India and Burma – he passed out top in the Indian Civil Service exams in 1919 – and I spent my early childhood in Burma, so I grew up in the heyday of the Raj, respecting my father’s motives, but soon beginning to question the rationale of Empire. At the end of the Second World War, part of our quest for a fairer world was for one in which colonised countries regained their independence and I wanted to play a part in that process. I therefore applied to join the newly-established Extra-Mural Department of the University College of the Gold Coast and had my first taste of gender discrimination, when my fitness for the job as a woman was questioned. I was, however, appointed and lost no time in starting an extra-mural class for young women in basic political skills. When one of my students went to prison for taking part in an independence demonstration, she sent her jailer to keep up with the course on her behalf. Later, when I was in Uganda, as my then superior was sceptical about the idea, I took my own time to teach English, the official language, to groups of socially significant women, whose voices were muffled by not having that language. Towards the end of my formal working life, I had the chance of undertaking a major piece of research into the impact of literacy acquisition on adult women and my findings had an effect on British Government aid policy at the time.

 During my thirty African years, we in universities moved from engaging with the colonial authorities to dialogue with rulers of independent countries. The latter were sincerely enthusiastic about broadening the scope of primary education, but often not fully understanding of the value of access to relevant university knowledge by any citizen – and this is true in Britain also. Nevertheless, the new African universities were able to make various innovations. Among those for which I took some responsibility were: the first rural folk high school in Africa, in Ghana; radio listening groups in Nigeria in the 1960s, developed into a Voice of the University in Zambia and later a University of the Air in Northern Nigeria; and the study of current affairs linked to role education for such groups as army officers and women legislators in Zambia.

 When I returned to Britain and became head of adult and continuing education at the University of Glasgow, I consulted with colleagues and the local authorities on issues about possible lack of social justice; and as a result, we developed courses in race awareness, with a team deliberately chosen to have an equal balance of indigenes and new Britons and of men and women. I give this example, to show how to the end of my working life, I tried to apply my principles.

 Beyond professional activities, I have always tried to take an active part in public arenas and community organisations, partly with the motive of ensuring that women’s voices were heard. Such involvement helps one to understand social under-currents and to engage in various advocacy programmes. In Britain, I have been an elected vice-president of the Workers’ Education Association  (WEA) and nominated Vice-President (for 21 years) of the Townswomen’s Guilds. I am currently, among other things, a Trustee of the Britain-Nigeria Educational Trust and of BRIDGES, the Shropshire development education body, and patron of the African Families’ Foundation.

 In particular, I have in the last few years devoted myself to the Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC), having been a Board member from 2000 to 2007 and joint executive vice-chair between 2002 and 2006. NGOs have a vital part to play in the Commonwealth and I have a conviction that the CEC is well placed to advocate quality rather than just quantity in the educational expansion in many countries since 2000 and in working for continuing serious interchange between universities around the Commonwealth.

Nemata Majeks-Walker

7 December, 2009


The heights by great men (and women) reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight;
But they, while their companions slept
Were toiling upward in the night.

I am happy to have this opportunity of sharing my life story for two reasons: the first is to illustrate that apparent disadvantages in one’s early life do not necessarily lead to an inability to achieve in later life; the second is to underscore the fact that in order to succeed one must be prepared to persevere and to strive for definite goals.

I was born in the east end of Freetown to a Muslim family. I was the only child of my mother who tragically passed away when I was only five years old, leaving me to be raised by my great grandmother, relatives and family friends. Of these people, I am particularly grateful to my aunt, Haja Memuna Kallay, who did her best to instil in me strong moral values and ethics.

I began school at the Amaraia and Hoy Trinity Primary Schools. Later, quite understandably, my great grandmother could not cope with the high-spirited teenager that I was, so after a brief spell at the Methodist Girls’ School I was dispatched to the Magburaka Secondary School for Girls in Mathora. Apart from the fact that I was a boarder where I was under stricter supervision, the move took me closer to my dad who worked in Kamakwie.

Our Principal was the late Mrs. Oredola Fewry. It was not long before she noticed this noisy girl from Freetown who found it so difficult to obey instructions. Probably at a loss as to what to do about me even as a senior girl, she set a precedence by appointing me Senior Prefect of the school. She rightly conjectured that doing that would keep me in check. And indeed her ploy played a significant part in helping me to become the first girl from the school to pass the General Certificate of Education Ordinary level Examinations.

After that it was back to Freetown where I was accepted at the Annie Walsh Memorial School to pursue sixth form work. I was also as a boarder there and that again helped me to acquire my A-levels. I have fond memories of my form teacher, the late Mrs. Margaret Greene and my English Language and Literature teacher, Miss Omojowo Lawson. I owe a lot to these two women for their patience and guidance.

The completion of my A-levels enabled me to acquire a government scholarship to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. At FBC, I encountered tough lecturers like the famous Geography lecturer, Dr. Enid Forde, who was our Hall warden (Warden of Women Students), and Dr. Gladys Harding of the Department of Education.

I had a rather unforgettable encounter with Dr. Gladys Harding when I started teaching practice at the AWMS. On my first day, I didn’t realise that I should have prepared notes for the lesson I was going to teach. As my Observer, Dr. Harding needed to use those notes as a guide as she watched me teach.

As soon she entered the classroom she asked for my lesson notes. I just stood there, dumbfounded. Being the kind of no-nonsense person that she was, she began telling me off in front of the whole class in no uncertain terms. I don’t think I have ever been so ashamed of myself. There I was – me a high and mighty budding teacher all dressed up in my best clothes, looking elegant to impress the girls. I even wore tights in spite of the heat. Instead I was being told off in front of them! It was humiliating and I cannot now remember how I got through that lesson but I remember surreptitiously wiping away my tears and doing the best I could. What is important though is what followed.

Reader, what would you have done if you were in my place? What I did on my return home was decide that to pass my Teaching Practice, I must try to have her on my side. So I rang her up and apologised. She asked me to see her at her office the next day, which I did. There she explained all the Teaching Practice procedures which I had not followed even though she had painstakingly taught them in class. From then on Dr. Gladys Harding became my mentor. The happy ending of that story is that I ended up with a distinction in teaching practice!! The lessons I learnt:
Humility is a virtue!
Pride goeth before a fall!!!

At this stage also, I was blessed by senior friends, notably Professor and Mrs. Eldred Jones, who became my adopted parents and had a positive influence in my life, literally taking over the role of my aunt Haja Memuna Kallay in terms of chiselling my rough edges. In spite of the efforts of these three wonderful people I must confess that, as an undergraduate I was always a member of any group that was organising strikes on campus over one cause or the other. However, when I left Fourah Bay College as a student it was with a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours in English Language and Literature, which I earned in 1972 and a post-graduate Diploma in Education which I received the following year.

In 1973, I left for the United States where I did a Masters Degree in English as a Second Language at the University of Illinois, Champaigne-Urbana. I completed the course in 1975. I returned to Freetown in1976 and worked as a part-time lecturer in Foundation Studies at Fourah Bay College and as Teacher of English Language and Literature at AWMS. I was there till 1981 and during this time I was made Co-Head of the English Department. From there I went to work as a Curriculum Development Officer for English at the Institute of Education in Freetown, organizing in-Service Training for teachers of English, among other activities.

In 1983, I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue a PhD. in Distance Education at University of Surrey, Guildford, UK. As part of the course I designed a Distance Education Course on the teaching of English as a second language. Upon graduating from University in 1986, I worked extensively as an Education Officer in London, up until the early 1990s.

In 1994 I was appointed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on contract to the Government of Ghana as Adviser in English Communications Skills and Distance Education. My duties entailed providing professional assistance to the newly established University College of Education of Winneba, Ghana. During my time in Winneba, I successfully established the Ghana English Studies Association and a home reading scheme which enabled parents teach their children to read and (in the case of illiterate parents), school-going older siblings to teach reading to younger siblings.

By this time Sierra Leone beckoned, and I returned home. In 1998, I was appointed an Education Consultant for PLAN International in Sierra Leone. In this position I was responsible for strengthening the Education system through the rehabilitation, reconstruction and refurbishing of damaged school infrastructure and providing resources as required in PLAN’s operation areas. I was also responsible for drafting the Country Strategic Plan, including Country Program Outlines. This challenging appointment was brought to an abrupt end by the 1999 January 6 rebel incursion into Freetown.

From this time on, my pattern of operation changed in a marked way. I ceased working directly for any single organisation and I established the NEMAYA Education and Training Consultancy in 1999 which marked a significant change in my career. I turned my attention to freelance short-term national and international consultancies. As its Chief Executive, I have undertaken various consultancy assignments for the British Council and other international Agencies.

This new development kept me very active and culminated in vigorous participation in the formation of the 50/50 Group and the empowerment of women in Sierra Leone to become more emancipated and active in public life. The Mission of the non-partisan 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone is to campaign for more women in politics and public life through training and advocacy. We aim to change the public’s perception of women in politics and public life. The motivation for the formation of this group was the recognition, following the final end to our long civil war, that women were essential but missing players in the peace process.

In spite of all the efforts and recognition of the fundamental rights of women and men to participate in political life, in practice inequality in the area of power and decision-making still exists. What do we do to address this problem? The answer to this question is the reason why we are happy to be asking all schools to set up 50/50 clubs which we will sponsor and support. This will enable students to develop awareness of the fact that a woman’s place is as much in the kitchen as in GOVERNANCE and PUBLIC LIFE!! It will give students much needed political knowledge that is not in the schools’ curriculum.

In 2003, I was a Commonwealth observer in the Pakistan elections. In 2005, I was given a consultancy by the United Nations Mission in Liberia to help develop the Liberian Women’s Manifesto and train their candidates. Liberia has in fact produced the first female president in West Africa. I received another international recognition from the Commonwealth when I was sent as one of three experts to observe elections in Belize in February 2007. These exposures to comparable activities in other countries widen my experience and are of benefit to the 50/50 Group as I get new insights from each involvement.

It has not been “all work and no play”. My membership of the Rotary club in Accra, Ghana was transferred to the Rotary Club of Freetown. This is a 64-year old prestigious male-dominated service club in which I was privileged to serve as the first and so far the only female president in 2003.

Throughout the years, I have managed to balance my career and role as a wife and mother. I feel that my greatest achievement in life is the fact that I have been able to balance wife-hood/motherhood and an exciting career life with seeing my daughter and son almost single-handedly through to post graduate degree levels of education. These were very challenging tasks but with the help of God I have been able to succeed in playing the balancing act. The road to success is long; it is hazardous, with many pitfalls along the way. Sometimes I’ve stumbled, at other times fallen flat on my face. The secret was never to give up. When you fail or fall, get up, dust yourself down and keep on keeping on. I now look back with pride at the road down which I have travelled and see my footprints quite clearly on the sands of time.

Hilda Vemba

26 November, 2009

HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases: ‘I am really passionate about what I am doing: it always boils down to education and education.’

My full names are Hilda Frances Vember (nee Croy). I was born on the 30 September; 1955. My parents are William and Caroline Croy. I am very fortunate to have both my parents and all my siblings still alive, although my Dad is not well. He is 78 years old and my Mom is 77. I am the second eldest sibling, out of 8 children. I have 5 brothers, one older than me and two sisters, both younger than me. I was born into an ordinary working class family. My father was a carpenter, who subcontracted for “white” bosses all the time. My Mom worked as a domestic worker and then in a factory. After the birth of my eldest brother, she became a house wife and reared all of us. This was a real bonus to have my mother at home, seeing us off to school and being there when we came back.

I grew up in an area called Bellville South. This area was allocated in the apartheid era only for coloured people. It is predominantly an Afrikaans speaking community. Tuition at all our schools was in Afrikaans, and it was my home language. Our area has three primary schools and two high schools. We also have two universities, approximately 3 km. from our home. So we were always surrounded by university students.

The shops were predominantly owned by the Muslim community and are still like that today. I was not exposed to many cultures as I grew up as we were predominantly coloured and Muslim people living in our town. We have a number of different churches as well as two mosques around us. We also had multiple sports fields. My entire family loves sport and all of us participated in various sport codes. My parents always encouraged this.

Like all so called black (which includes coloured) communities, our town is also divided into economic and sub–economic housing. A main street divides my community from the real poverty stricken areas where I grew up. I currently live in the same area of Bellville South, but just in a more upgraded suburb, called Glen Haven Estate. Close to where I live, children are malnourished and underweight. Unemployment is rife, so is drug abuse, and children and women are abused. House break-ins and car theft are the order of the day. We have one health centre which serves this community. HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, plus chronic diseases of lifestyle like hypertension, diabetes and cardiac related illness are common. With the influx of immigrants from all over the region, the clinic cannot cope with the real demands of every day health care.

I grew up in a fairly protective home environment and my father was strict with all of us. He was a real disciplinarian. I grew up in an extremely male dominated and patriarchal household, where my dad ruled the roost. My mom was the peacemaker and home organizer. Yet, I was raised in a loving and very religious home. We worship (I still do) in the Anglican faith.

Education was a priority and both my parents ensured that all of us received good schooling. Of my five brothers, two are high school teachers, two more who own their own business and one brother works for our South African Defence force. Of my two younger sisters one is a primary school teacher and the youngest sister is in corporate banking. I am lecturing in nursing and am currently busy with PhD studies. As well as being family we are all still very good friends. We enjoy getting together. Seven of us are married, live on our own but are one big happy family together with our children and spouses. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and Easter we all celebrate together.

I schooled at ordinary public schools, where I was one of 40-50 pupils from primary to high school in my class. However, with dedicated teachers and a loving supported family, I managed to always do well. I was a hard and consistent worker. I became the head prefect in matric and it is there that I developed my leadership skills. While at high school, my teachers all felt that I was a “born” teacher. However, I always wanted to be a nurse. After matric, I started my diploma in nursing at Somerset hospital in Green Point, Cape Town. I wanted to go and do the degree course, but my parents could not afford to send me to university. I therefore opted for the diploma course, where I earned a measly salary as a student nurse. I still had to give my parents the bulk of the money, but I kept some pocket money. This is where my real independence started. Against my father’s wishes, I had no choice but to leave home as it was compulsory for all student nurses to live in nurse’s residence. This was a marvellous experience which forced me to become mature instantaneously, as I was now faced with preserving people’s lives. Despite my conservative upbringing, I adjusted very well and soon became prefect in the nurse’s residence as well. Twice a week, when I was off duty, I would undertake a half an hour train journey home to spend with my folks and to go to church.

It is during this three year training period when I was introduced to various cultures and dealing with all kinds of people. It was wonderful! I then continued with my diploma in midwifery at the same hospital and finally left Somerset at the end of 1979. I got married to the most wonderful, loving supportive husband, named Ralph and just recently in April, we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. He is my rock and support through my entire academic career. We have two wonderful sons, Ian, aged 29 and Robin, age 24 years. Ian is married and I am grandma to the sweetest two little boys, Ethan and Aaron. My daughter in law is Ronelle. Ian is in Human resource management and Robin is a journalist.

In 1982 I went to the Technikon fulltime and completed my Diploma in Community Nursing Science. In January, 1983, I started as a district nurse in a semi-rural area, Philippi in the heart of the city. This was a real eye opener. This community consists of 42 farms and many squatter areas. Only the white farmers live in decent houses. This is where I was introduced and had to deal with extreme poverty, almost absolute poverty in many cases. Most of the farm workers were paid with a tot of alcohol in the morning and at night and earned very little money. I travelled with a fitted-out mobile van from farm to farm to serve the people. All kinds of sexually transmitted diseases were rife, as well as tuberculosis and later on HIV/AIDS. It is here where I had to rely on all my expertise, and with the rest of the team, to attempt to communicate with the extremely difficult and prejudiced white farmers.

The words “kaffir” (for black people) and “hotnots” (for coloured people) were the order of the day, if you did not have a white skin. Some of the white farmers initially did not allow me, because of my skin color, to come onto their premises. I then had to work from outside their gate to see my clients. I did health promotion on a big scale on issues like reproductive health, STI’s and general personal hygiene. There was only one primary school in the area. With the result, very few children pursued high school or further education, but had to go and work as cheap labour on the farms. Most parents were alcoholics.

My role had been clear right from the onset, education and more education. I instituted daily health promotion programmes on the farms and collaborated with important role-players like the priest, the one and only school principal and school staff, church leaders and one social worker, who worked tirelessly in the area. Together we focused on hygiene, nutrition and basic health issues. Soon I discovered that more and more babies were born with syphilis and gonorrhea and more and more adults were diagnosed with the same and other sexually transmitted diseases. I, together with the entire health team at our small clinic decided to embark on a research project within the area. We gained access to the factories firstly where we revealed horrifying statistics.

Despite all the setbacks, there were many successes in the area. Almost all the farmers gave me permission to come onto their premises  and allowed me to start a child care centre. After 9 years of slogging in the area, when I eventually left, 35 farmers had abolished the tot system and workers were earning a better wage. This was the most challenging, but rewarding experience of my nursing career. I still teach community nursing with so much passion and my students benefit from my practical examples of my Philippi experience.

When my boys were 1 and 5 years old respectively, I pursued my first degree through distance learning. In 1994 I completed my BCUR and in 1996 I completed my BCUR-HONOURS degree. This was challenging, rearing children, being a wife and an extremely busy community and church worker. I moved on in my career and started at one of our higher education institutions (HEI) in 1989 as a clinical nurse practitioner in the student health service. Here I was faced with the challenges of young people, especially sexuality related issues. I became involved with first year student orientation programmes and collected basic sexual health information from new the admissions. Eighty per cent of the  students had experienced sex before entering HEI and safer sex practices were unheard of. At that time HIV/AIDS was emerging as a major threat and the findings were extremely worrying. We launched massive campaigns on our campus, focusing on the use of condoms, safer sex practices and sticking with one partner. Students flocked to our student health service for advice, counselling and to be treated for various STI’s. Pregnancy rates amongst students were soaring, so we then embarked on a massive reproductive health campaign, where the focus was on contraception methods. However, the request for abortions became overwhelming, as these young people did not want to go through with their pregnancies. This posed a major problem, as abortion was not legalized in South Africa. Again, it was education and education!

I also started lecturing on a part-time basis at the institution. Finally my dream was fulfilled in May, 2000, when I entered academia on a full-time basis. I teach post-basic nursing courses, but am still hands on, as all the courses have quite a big practical component. So I do have an opportunity to visit and accompany my students in the various health services.

My community outreach is still continuing. I am very involved in HIV/AIDS and sexuality training. I go to local schools, matric camps, youth groups and confirmation camps. I also train staff of NGO’S and CBO’s. I trained 90 per cent of the academic staff in various HIV/AIDS and sexuality issues, as these have to be integrated into mainstream curricula. I am the chairperson of the Western Cape regional nursing education association (NEA). I am really passionate about what I am doing.

I am continually confronted with shocking levels of ignorance about HIV/AIDS. Two very different examples from my experiences illustrate this.

First, in March, 2007, I was privileged to facilitate a workshop to 100 international students on HEI and HIV/AIDS. This stimulated a lot of debate and discussion. These students were from across the world, different universities and for many it was their first visit to a third world country! Our statistics of people living with HIV/AIDS in HEI shocked them out of their wits and they could not understand why ARV’s (anti-retroviral drugs) were not freely available. The ignorance of the international community of our reality, of the impact of the pandemic in our country, was striking.

The second example was during the same year, in November, when I was facilitator and presenter at a women’s conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This was an absolute mind boggling experience, as the communities’ knowledge was almost zero and very much in denial. Even the so-called “educated” women, including medical practitioners, were not clued up with latest statistics, treatments and protocols. One of the problems I faced was language as in Sri Lanka the mother tongue is either Tamil or Sinhalese. However, during the conference there was translating equipment for each of the 500 delegates, and in the villages I always had interpreters to work with. The major disappointment of my three week stint of community-based education came within my final week. I was interpreted as being HIV-Positive during one of my presentations. Immediately, I was told that my final workshop with a group of school children at an Anglican missionary school would be cancelled, as the Nuns and children are not prepared to face/deal with someone HIV-positive! Needless to say, I cried bitterly, because I could not understand how my status, whether positive or negative, could influence the good work that I was doing. I did not even try to defend myself, except that I did tell the women’s executive about my disappointment and that I am not HIV-positive. I challenged their attitudes and educated them on stigmatization! Beside that experience, for me the entire trip was an eye opener and a tremendous learning experience.

In conclusion, I will be forever grateful to my parents despite the very conservative upbringing, for the sound morals and values that they have instilled in me and for the Christian principles that I can still uphold today. My family and friends also played a big role in encouraging me through thick and thin, good and bad times. I thank God for all the skills and talents that he gave me and for making me the caring individual that I am.

Arlene Walsh

24 November, 2009

An outsider looking in.

I was brought up in the then Transvaal of South Africa, in the remote and dusty town of Pietersburg. I went to the excellent Capricorn primary school, named after the tropic, and later to Jeppe High School for Girls in Johannesburg. I know now by just how much  my solid educational grounding was at the expense of my black contemporaries whose education was very poorly subsidised.  Perhaps to compensate my adult working life has been  something of a  haphazard search for opportunities to reduce the inequalities between the majority black and minority white populations, but that is quite hard to say aloud because it sounds patronising.

My story is easiest to tell through snapshots of incidents. Those I have chosen are telling moments in a circuitous, unplanned  reflection on my numerous  roles and experiences, all associated with education. Each reminds me of a lesson I learned from people I have encountered.

I fell into teaching by chance, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I married young, straight out of school, and had two children by the time I finished my first degree (through distance education). I selected the post- graduate diploma in education as my next option, not so much for education, but because I could take my infant son to class. When I learned that the school offering me a post had a nursery, that decided me and a teacher I became!   It was rather surprising to discover that the pupils generally enjoyed my classes.  A favourite memory is of a pupil arriving at class, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically and saying ‘We are going to have fun now.’ I had discovered how teaching English enabled me to relate content and skills to the pupils’ interests and needs.   It was not the same when I moved to the university, but it was there that fresh possibilities opened up. My next examples are from the in-service (INSET) teacher upgrade programmes run by the then Rand Afrikaans University (RAU), where I worked in different parts of the country. I was employed as a lecturer in the English department, teaching across the canon. Selfishly I included whatever old European texts were on the curriculum,   to nurture my love of medieval poetry, developed during my master’s degree.  Looking back, this fascination with medieval poetry now seems strangely de-contextualised and esoteric.

My ‘day job’ at the university covered the normal duties, research and administration required within a department of literature. However, I soon began participating in community development and INSET programmes, organised mostly by the Faculty of Education. The first of these was a programme where untrained or partially trained black teachers from the informal ‘community’ schools in the squatter camp of Orange Farm, were bussed into the university, several afternoons a week.  RAU staff devised courses that covered both subject content and teaching methodology. Yes, there were monetary gains for the University from doing this work, but more importantly for me was the fact that woefully under-prepared black teachers were given hands-on assistance to increase their knowledge and skills. This was in the 1980s and 1990s when many black teachers had been trained in sub-standard colleges and had often begun teaching without completed qualifications. Certainly, the INSET programme work provided immediate feedback and a sense of doing something practical and useful to redress educational imbalances.

Other INSET programmes involved university staff fanning out across the country during vacations to work with school teachers.  By participating in these programmes over a good many years, I developed a picture of school conditions and circumstances across all the provinces of South Africa, as well as a new found respect for teachers and school leaders who had to cope with few resources in less than ideal conditions. Because of the nature of the programmes, I did not generally encounter pupils, but it was not difficult to get an inkling of the poverty that beset many households.

Imagine discovering that a wonderful, dedicated woman who had been teaching Grade 1 for almost twenty years had no idea at all about a perceptual development programme used in preparation for the teaching of reading. This happened to me when participating in an in-service teacher upgrade programme in Lebogomka, a remote and dusty corner of Limpopo Province. The miracle is how learners in the teacher’s classes had grasped the fundamentals of reading and writing at all. The sadness is that this poor lady had no formal training to teach, had never ever been visited by an official, or assisted with the fundamental knowledge that she required.  She had battled along, doing the best she could. Being able to guide her through the fundamentals, talking together about the simple, freely available objects and natural items that could be used to support and enliven learning, watching her bloom with excitement at new possibilities, was heart warming and enriching. But it also made me angry. How could the then Department of Education (then one of 19) fail to support or prepare teachers with even the most basic guidance and support? 

On another occasion, I arrived early for my first slot with a large group of senior teachers who were completing an English Teaching upgrade certificate. As I stood at the back of the crowded hall, I discovered that the teachers were somnolent with boredom as the ‘facilitator’ droned on monotonously, reading from a textbook.

When my turn to work with the group arrived, I felt desperate. To get the attention of the group, I marched up to the front, kicked off my shoes and jumped up onto the table. There I did an isiZulu rhyme with matching gestures:  ‘sibade’ ‘siba fishane’  ‘siba mkhulu’ ‘siba tokoloshe’. (I am tall, I am short, I am very big, I am an evil dwarf.)  Well? It worked. I had the attention of the group. The teachers and principals present were eager to know who I was and what I was doing. We then proceeded to work, but every now and again, when the room was too hot, when attention was flagging, we  would divert to a game or energiser or simple rhymes, dance, song, to arouse the group, to have a laugh, and then to get cracking on with the work. I suppose that what I was learning was to respond to the needs of the group, to make a connection, to ‘read’ the needs of the group. The aim was certainly not to ‘play’, but to use play to revitalise the group, overcome tiredness and achieve the necessary tasks. 

Sadly, changing funding patterns and possibilities necessitated yet another shift in focus. I moved to a private higher education institution, where I was asked to step into a leadership role. The opportunity meant that I learned a huge amount about business and public sector topics, and eventuated in my enrolment for, and completion of, an MSc in Strategic Planning at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. (I am currently working on a DBA at the same institution.) However, this period of my career is not one upon which I look with any fondness at all. After the ‘service’ focus of the INSET work and the NGO values-based approach, I found the emphasis on profit at the expense of quality and learning orientation, rather difficult to reconcile. My feeling is that our government is probably correct in critiquing the parasitic nature of many private higher institutions.

What did this teach me? I learned that I needed to judge the circumstances and react accordingly, often without much planning, and with a degree of foolhardiness. I could have been laughed to scorn, or heavily critiqued, or regarded (probably quite correctly) as stark staring mad. Let me make it clear that there are many sensitivities around race, age, rank and gender in South Africa, all of which need to be negotiated carefully and handled sensitively.

The INSET upgrade work, and the understanding that it gave me of the vast need to equip, support and prepare black teachers, principals and district officials, impelled me to shift focus from university lecturing to a non-governmental organisation, the Management of Schools Training Programme (MSTP).

My role at MSTP, an important organisation now sadly defunct, was to establish a department that prepared the materials for use in the school development projects running all around the country. Under the visionary leadership of a pioneering leader, we developed an accredited and practice-based Advanced Certificate in Education for principals and deputy principals, which aimed at improving leadership and management practice in the schools. The material we developed was richly contextual and rigorous, based on researched case studies, with required pre-readings and extensive practice-based assessment tasks. We also developed poster-based ‘key point’ training material in the vernacular for school governing bodies, to assist in the implementation of the rather onerous responsibilities placed on school governing bodies by the South African Schools Act, promulgated in 1996.

Nevertheless, I did do some field work, and then of course I fell back upon my ‘teaching bag of tricks’. Sometimes this got me into trouble, such as when I inadvertently used a culturally inappropriate analogy while working with senior education officials from the Nkandla district deep in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal. I had written and was now facilitating, the bulk of a School Change Facilitation course (accredited by the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg) covering the gamut of organisational issues and skills required by District Officials who had to enter schools and monitor and guide the school management teams.

In the very first session with the group, I was severely reprimanded by a senior Zulu dignitary, who was closely related to the prominent political figure whose name I had used carelessly, and, it transpired, inappropriately. I began to perspire, thinking that all was now lost and that the group would now refuse to continue with the current discussion, let alone the course as a whole.  The consequences could have been huge. This was a USAID-funded project that intervened at all levels of management in the school system, as well as curriculum.  If the District Officials were unhappy, the whole project would have stalled and foundered. My blunder was not insignificant.  What could I do to remedy the situation? I quickly made a self-deprecating joke about my ignorance, and followed with an apology. There was a sharp intake of breath, and then the person who had reprimanded me chose to accept the joke and the apology, as he laughed.  Everyone else laughed thereafter and we continued very happily with the work. A measure of the rapprochement that we reached is perhaps indicated by the moving ceremony that the group organised once the final assessment had been completed. They presented me with a lovely woven blanket in a deep leaf green with a burnt orange geometrical design.  They draped this across my shoulders, after parading into the room singing and dancing, and then gave speeches of thanks and appreciation.

Needless to say, I moved on quite quickly, this time to establish my own educational consultancy. This move into an entrepreneurial role is one that still takes me rather by surprise, as I had never envisaged myself in this way. Nevertheless, the varied work that has resulted is interesting and stimulating. It ranges from project management learnerships for a Sector Education Training Authority, to curriculum development work for various government and educational institutions, to support work for the President of the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management (CCEAM), speech and proposal writing in the education context, and skills development work.

I like to think that I have not lost the developmental and values-based approach and thrust that I found so stimulating, valuable and enriching when doing the INSET work and large scale school improvement projects for MSTP. I sincerely hope that I am not deluded.

Pilisiwe Lolwane

24 November, 2009

How was it possible?

Every time I visit my village outside the tiny home of Qumbu in the Eastern Cape, I stop to wonder, firstly how I have managed to ‘escape’, and then wonder how I have made it this far. I have gone over this question in my mind a million times and sometimes am able to come up with a neat and rational explanation for the inquisitive or even for myself.  I am not convinced that I understand how the universe works, how my own trajectory was put together and which parts of my life played a major role in making me the person I now am. You will have to judge if there is any explanation.

I was born on the 31st of December in 1950 in Balasi location in Qumbu. If you have never heard of this place, don’t worry, few people know of this place even in South Africa. I never knew my father but knew of him. This by itself was a cause of a lot of anxiety to a growing child like me who was forever speculating about all kinds of possibilities about my existence. You see, I was brought up in a home full of books, magazines and old newspapers. In my own explanation of how things worked out, I always single out the fact that I was brought up surrounded by plenty of reading materials as the most and single important factor that saw me and my siblings rise above and away from the village life. As a last born, with a mother who was a grade 1 and 2 teacher, I was able to read quite early. When I was in grade 3, I read a book that was more than 500 pages long, in Xhosa – Ingqumbo Yeminyaya (The Wrath of the Ancestors) by A.C. Jordaan. Reading to me was a way of figuring out how the world outside my village worked.  Whilst my peers who did not read as avidly as me could not imagine a world outside our village, I started to develop a vey wild imagination at an early age. I was convinced that there was a mistake – I really did not belong to my village as I identified with the worlds described in the books I read. My household was not any better than others around it as there were no class issues in the village. But I still think that my mother was determined to give us education as a passport to a better world. She would find out about bursaries and any other assistance we could get beyond our primary school. This provided a first step of separation from other children who ended their education at the end of primary school.

I was twelve when I was able to step out of my village to a boarding school where I saw white people for the first time. Even though the boarding school was in a mission school in a village, it was certainly a step above my village because it was a high school. Not only that it firstly provided a reprieve from the daily chores that only girls had to endure in a village, like fetching water, cooking and washing dishes daily; and secondly it provided a space where I could meet with students from all over South Africa, who came to the boarding house by train. For me what was most important was the number of books available to read.

I had started my schooling right at the beginning of Bantu Education in South Africa, and had my older brother, mother and my teachers instilling in me the uselessness of the education we were receiving. So, I was not going to pay much attention to a ‘not so good’ education but would just get the ‘papers’ that come with it – useless or not. I also went through school convinced that I did not have to pay much attention to teachers because I had so much confidence in my own abilities to find out the answers from the books.  I was, after all, such a ‘prolific’ reader.

I still went through my education with little motivation. I was just a passenger in the education train where learning was not difficult. During my final year of high school we had a strike in our school and I was one of the students who were expelled early on in the year and could only return to write my examinations. I was shocked when I failed my end of high school examinations; this was the first failure for me in my not so illustrious education career. My brother and sister had earlier on distinguished themselves as very bright individuals.  In order to proceed I would have to be in a position to attract bursaries and scholarships, like my older siblings. But my school performance was dismal. I had to return to my village with my tail between my legs as I had nothing to show for the time I had spent away from home.

During the first year after I failed my ‘matric’, I worked for a couple of months in a wholesale store in Flagstaff, another small town in the Eastern Cape. As blacks, we were expected to refer to all whites in the store as ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ irrespective of their age and even though all of them had much less education than me. But the racism was unbearable – where we could eat, the salary gaps, and how we were generally bullied around. I was fired after 5 months for insubordination. I had to go back to my village again. The year I spent in my village trying to study and rewrite my high school examinations as a private candidate was very instructive. At 19, I now realised how my life would be if I had to spend the rest of it in that village. It just was not going to work for me. I put all my might to memorise the subjects I had failed so that I could rewrite this examination. Education took a whole new meaning for me as I now knew for sure that it was my only chance to escape a destiny of poverty and hardship.  Whilst I was preparing for a rewrite, I also applied to Teachers’ colleges as these were the only institutions that would now give me a shot at post-secondary education. Was I interested in being a teacher? Not at all, but being a teacher was much better than the life of village chores.

For the first when I went to the Teachers’ College at Lovedale, I was determined to be amongst the top achievers, and I was. Looking back now, it really was a strange period in my life. Although I was not really interested in being a teacher I was putting a lot of effort into being the top achiever in my class.  When I first went out for my practice teaching, the principal of the school wanted me to come back and teach in his school, and I did. The students, principal and the inspectors liked me a lot because I put all energies in whatever I did. I was still not sure that I wanted to be a teacher, but it was OK.

A new life opened up 5 years later when I transferred to be close to a university that had opened in the Eastern Cape.  This offered classes in the evening which I attended.  I was now married, with a child and needed a change from teaching. I discovered enjoyment in education for the first time when I registered with the University of Transkei, now Walter Sisulu University. I liked everything about the university – the kind of knowledge that was taught, the debates with lecturers and fellow students, assignments and even examinations. I just flew. I also think that I was surrounded by so many lecturers who saw how thirsty I was for education. I was one of the first eleven students to graduate, in record time, and the only female student. I had a number of distinctions under my belt. I majored in psychology, partly because the subject intrigued me and partly because I was still figuring myself out.

During my first post-graduate degree, my faculty at the university recruited me as a junior researcher. By the time I was doing my masters in the 80s, I was sure that I liked the university environment better than schools, but I was still a junior and that I did not like that. I successfully applied for a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in the USA and relocated with my family. Studying and working part-time in the USA was easier than holding a teaching job and doing undergraduate studies at home. A master’s degree grew to a Ph.D. in psychology as I now wanted to be the best.

My dissertation was completed in record time after the release of Nelson Mandela prompted a desire to return home to South Africa.  Although I was adequately armed with a Ph.D. from the USA to get a job –  I was employed by the University of Witwatersrand soon after I arrived back in South Africa – what I did not know was how long it was going to take for blacks and women to find their place in this new society. It was hard and painful. I could never tell whether the problem was a race or a gender discrimination issue. Power in academic circles in South Africa was in the hands of white men. As women we were also not adequately prepared to take over this power. However, I was prepared to learn how to play the game.

I endured years of tutelage under different masters during the years that followed. Unlike my peers who have not managed to distinguish themselves, I was motivated to continue learning and progressing.  Since my return from the USA I have held many positions in different organisations include being a Director for Policy Research in an Independent Examination Board; Director for a Central Organisation for Trade testing of the Department of Labour; Chief Executive Officer of the South African Certification Council (SAFCERT) and my past recent job was that of a Chief Executive Officer at Umalusi: Council for General and Further Education Quality assurance, a statutory body I established. I am now a visiting associate professor at the University of Witwatersrand, where I am establishing a research and teaching centre for post-school education. I continue to play a critical role in the education development process of this country. I have received several awards in the education field.

It has been a long road that has taken some detours from my village to here. I know that it helped that I attended church schools as a child. The mission schools moulded me and ensured that I travelled a narrow and straight road even when my morality was still under developed. Growing up surrounded with books was extremely helpful in my life. I could transport myself beyond my local situation and from an early age my world was much bigger than my village. Even though I started with not such a shining school performance, along my educational path I had a number of individuals who believed in me. I always knew that my talent was in education, even when my performance was mediocre. It has been through and in education that I found my niche. I am spending this time to help those young people who maybe like me – from humble backgrounds, not really focused at the beginning and who have started at a wrong footing – to still have many other second chances in the education system of this country. I am no longer in the classroom, but education remains an important instrument for me through which I have chosen to change the world in which I live.

Zandile Kunene

24 November, 2009

Sadly,  Zandile died on 11 February 2010 after a long battle with a rare form of cancer called choriocarcinoma. Zandile had continued to carry out her duties with style and aplomb even while enduring bouts of  chemotherapy following surgery. It was while attending an MBA class at the University of London in September 2009 that Zandile fell ill and was rushed to the Charing Cross Hospital. She underwent intensive treatment there and appeared to be rallying, but shortly after returning home to South Africa, she succumbed to her illness.  At her funeral service in Pietermarizburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, tribute was paid to her vision, her soft spoken yet firm and powerful leadership style, and her ability to work with people at all levels. A representative of the Minister of Higher Education expressed the regret of the government at the loss of a talented and highly regarded woman.


I am proud to be a Zulu women.  My life is lived according to Zulu ubunfu philosophy and social rules.  This means I treat others with respect and compassion. I believe it important that we are always sincere in what we do, share with others and remain positive irrespective of external pressures.  I try to ensure my leadership is democratic, which for me means involving others and motivating them though consultative and collaborative efforts. 

The meaning of ubuntu is encapsulated in the following phrase:

Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – translated as ‘we are who we are because of others’. 

Clearly the focus is on the communal, the responsibility, recognition, reciprocity and respect that arises from dignified interactions and roles within a group.  When chairing a very difficult meeting, I try to reconcile opposing views.  By firmly pointing out the necessary corrective actions I hope that people leave the meeting feeling affirmed but also having a clear sense of direction and purpose.

I think my upbringing was instrumental in determining the sort of person I have become.  I was born and brought up in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, of parents who were relatively well off compared to many black South Africans. My father was a trader and my mother a nursing sister. However, I travel far to school each day, by taxi and train, along dusty roads,.  I often reflect on how disturbing I found it to have to pass schools that were closer to my home, because they were reserved for white pupils, under the iniquitous apartheid laws.

I first was taught in English when I entered secondary school.  This was a Catholic convent and boarding school called Montebello High School, governed by strict rules of conduct and with high standards. I encountered the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare, John Keats, the Brontes and Charles Dickens. I was puzzled at the disjunction between the circumstances depicted in the novels, plays and poems I was studying and the reality of life as a young Zulu girl growing up in apartheid South Africa of the nineteen sixties and seventies.  I do think that confronting those contradictions has helped me integrate the two disparate and distinct worlds that I continue to move between.

After school I went on to obtain a teaching qualification, which led me to want to study for a degree. However, at that time I needed ministerial permission to enrol at the whites only University of Natal (black students were expected to attend the University of Zululand). Having got my place at the University of Natal I went on to achieve my goal of a Bachelor of Arts degree, and then a post-graduate Bachelor of Education qualification.

These qualifications opened up opportunities for me.  I worked with the Independent Examinations Board as a Materials Developer/Trainer, followed by a stint with the Gauteng Department of Education as a Learning Integration Officer.  I was also employed as a tutor at the University of Natal and spent a period as a lecturer at the E.C. Mango College of Education. It is pleasing to note that some of the variety of educational and teacher development materials that I helped develop are still in use today.

Following these teaching institution posts I became Deputy National Director of a leading educational management non-governmental organisation, the Management of Schools Training Programme (MSTP).

In the complex world of foreign-funded projects, provincial power plays, numerous partner organisations and the huge distances covered I successfully managed a 15 million rand project in the Northern Province – success judged by the many project indicators, including significant change and improvement measured in the project schools.  Personal success came too, as my management and leadership within the project was rewarded by subsequent appointments, culminating years later in public recognition and awards (more below).

For some years I was the Executive Director of the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance (MGSLG). This institution was established in August 2003 by the Gauteng Department of Education, offering leadership training and support for school principals, deputy principals and heads of department. MGSLG also offers training to District Officials as well as to School Governing Bodies. In the few short years since its establishment, MGSLG has made a considerable impact in terms of the numbers of school leaders and governors trained. It has also established innovative programmes, such as a popular gender programme which combines gender-specific leadership issues with the opportunity for school leaders and aspirant leaders to obtain a formally accredited qualification as well.

During my period of leadership I have encouraged the organization to venture into training municipal officials in financial management skills. Large scale projects funded by external agencies and business have also been sought, in order to move the organization onto a sound financial footing.  This has contributed to raising the profile of MGSLG in South Africa and abroad.  All of us in the organization have worked together in developmental and collaborative efforts which have resulted in the establishment of partnerships with institutions across the continents.  A good example of this – and for which I am most proud – is my role as a founding member of Leadlink, a network of organisations in seven countries working across Africa in a collaborative educational leadership partnership.  A further networking role I undertook was as president of the Education Management Association of South Africa (EMASA).

Obviously success in any large project, programme or organisation is not determined by any one person, but my leadership role was positively judged by my peers. It was a great honour to be nominated as one of South Africa’s ‘Most Influential Women in Business and Government’ as well as for the ‘Outstanding Women in the Public Sector and State Owned Enterprises’ Awards, for which I was a finalist in 2006.

After the years in leadership roles in educational institutions I have now been honoured with the Presidency of the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management (CCEAM).  For the first time, South Africa is the hosting country for the Presidency. This is a huge honour for the country, and for me. The following aims are central to what I wish to be achieved during my period as CCEAM President:

  • Create a distinctive African footprint 
  • Move beyond maintenance to development activities
  • Increase the exposure of the CCEAM
  • Increase activity levels
  • Capitalise on the opportunities offered by the CCEAM presidency to win projects that can benefit SA schools and, ultimately, learners
  • Increase the membership of CCEAM to include more countries
  • Capitalise on the diversity within the commonwealth
  • Initiate projects related to the empowerment of women
  • Improve communication amongst and between members
  • Develop a more interactive approach
  • Explore new ways of doing things
  • Embark upon a broad programme of collaboration
  • To share knowledge of best practice in education management and administration

Ultimately, the African presidency of the CCEAM signifies an era of hope through expanded opportunities for engagement.

Now I am lucky enough to have a place at the Institute of Education in London and am studying for a MBA in educational leadership.