Covid-19: Here’s What You Can Do to Play a Major Role in Education

By Justin Foxton

Canaries into coal mines?

Satirist, cynic and all-round party-pooper writer Ben Trovato had this to say about re-opening schools: “I like the idea of sending kids back to school. It reminds me of the time when they would send canaries into coal mines.”

His point is brutal, and I am sure that great minds are applying themselves to ensuring the safety of our children as schools reopen. But what Trovato is pointing to is the very serious question of chance.

Gambling with children’s lives?

Are we preparing to take a massive chance with our children’s lives? What stark inequality realities will the re-opening of schools expose? Do we know for sure what the virus will be doing in a year or two? What happens when little ones lose their masks or forget to not hug each other? Or when little Lolly throws up? What then?

Space for school principals to brainstorm

I am currently facilitating workshops with school principals and leaders from a variety of fields as part of the Partners for Possibility leadership development program. These are the very real concerns being raised by panicking principals. The workshops are creating a space for them to discuss their fears and brainstorm possibilities and solutions on the fly. But how many school principals are getting this opportunity? We have 20 000 odd marginalised schools in South Africa. Most will be battling these very questions. How can we support them?

Offer what is in your hands

The Covid-19 call is as simple as this, especially in the education sector: Offer what is in your hands. Do you have any leadership experience of any kind in any field? You might run a one-person business. Be an executive. A community or faith leader. Are you still working? Retired? Semi-retired? Then a school principal urgently needs you to think through the next 12 – 24 months with them.

You don’t need to have all the answers – or any for that matter. You just need to be willing to walk together with a person who is going to need serious support in order to keep our children safe whilst they learn. With the encouragement and shared learning offered by partnership, they will navigate this crisis.

An invitation to play a role

Full disclosure: Partners for Possibility is an NGO and sponsors this monthly piece on what citizens can do to contribute to nation building. As a nation we don’t have time to waste, so I am openly inviting you to be in direct contact with their founder and CEO Dr Louise van Rhyn ( and sign up to play a huge and historic role in education during the Covid-19 era. No experience in education necessary. They need willing people to jump on board and walk together with a school principal to navigate this unprecedented crisis.

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This article is sponsored by Partners for Possibility (