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Member’s Voice: GSF’s Spotlight on Talent
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Member’s Voice: GSF’s Spotlight on Talent

Global Schools Forum organised its inaugural Spotlight this February that involved 20 participants from 14 organisations that work in 8 countries.

Hira Nomani from Pakistan, Samuel Shawa from Zambia, and Urmila Chowdhury from India were three of the fantastic participants. Read more about their experience in their own words.

Hira Nomani, Senior Manager, Schools HR, The Citizens Foundation, Pakistan.
It was an absolute pleasure to represent The Citizens Foundation (TCF) at Global Schools Forum’s spotlight on Talent, held in Johannesburg, Feb 17th - Feb 19th 2020. TCF is a non-profit organization working to provide access to quality education through a network of more than 1,500 schools, located in over 700 slums and villages across Pakistan. TCF is the largest private employer of women in Pakistan with over 12,000 female faculty.

At TCF, we firmly believe that a good principal leads a good school, and the journey of a good principal begins from when she gets hired in the system. Therefore, to ensure high-quality intake of school leaders, TCF has a very rigorous, well- structured and standardized selection process in place for principals all across Pakistan. The process focuses on looking at a set of competencies to identify the right fit for the principal position. These competencies are categorized under CARP – Capacity, Achievement, Relationship and Passion.

GSF’s inaugural spotlight dived deep into the topic of Talent, and one of the sub-themes explored was Hiring as a Retention Tool. This sub-theme made for a valuable opportunity for TCF to share its hiring practices of school leaders with other participants from GSF member organizations. We were able to share our learnings from the TCF selection process that has been in use for several years. The session generated exciting discussions and thoughtful questions from the participants, a testament to the wisdom that nestles in the GSF member community.

The spotlight also served as a handy platform to learn from peer organizations. Since all the member organizations are working towards the same mission of providing quality education, everyone seemed to have a similar set of challenges. What I found very interesting was to know how different participants are responding to and dealing with a varied collection of challenges in their work and context. The discussions with the participants gave me a lot to think about as to how can I adapt and contextualize those strategies at scale for TCF.


Samuel Shawa, Admin & HR Manager, Impact Network, Zambia
Being part of the Global Schools Forum Inaugural Spotlight on Talent in Johannesburg, South Africa was a fantastic opportunity. I represented my organisation, Impact Network, at this wonderful event.

Impact Network Zambia works with the Ministry of General Education in the country to help the government in its efforts to achieve universal primary education. Founded in 2009, Impact Network Zambia is a Zambia-based not for profit organisation that is working to improve the quality of education in community schools in Zambia.

Impact Network is based in Katete and has expanded its project to Sinda and Petauke Districts of the Eastern Province of Zambia. Impact Network is working in over 39 schools with a student population of over 6000 students.

The Spotlight organised by GSF brought together several organisations to discuss Talent-related questions. Through the three days that the event ran for, we had lots of interactions and learning from one another. The content shared and discussed were very educative and highlighted the practical situations happening in most organisations at the moment. It also allowed the participants to explore ways in which we can handle and solve these situations in our respective organisations.

During an activity called the Challenge Carousel, participants from a few member organisations shared with the group the challenges they are facing in their respective organisation. The remaining participants brainstormed on the possible solutions and shared them with the presenters.

One of the many practices that I would like to propose to my organisation for possible implementation is the Leadership Development Program created by SPARK Schools. Called the Trailblazers Program, it appears to be a good strategy and method to retain teachers in school network organisation. A mandatory qualification of this program is that the applicants should have worked at SPARK for at least a year and the training run for about 18 months while the teachers/staff continue to be in their respective roles.

Given this program, it seems evident that teachers at SPARK are motivated to stay longer as they value the career development opportunity offered to them. This strategy, I believe, could be an interesting one to try in my organisation.


Urmila Chowdhury, Education Director, Peepul, India
Peepul is an India based education-focused not for profit organisation that is working towards creating an education system in India that enables every child to receive a quality education. At Peepul, we dream of a world where every child is enabled and supported to achieve their potential.

Our small but successful network of three schools in Delhi in partnership with the government cater to 1100 children. We hire fresh graduates from Delhi’s prestigious colleges and give them rigorous pre-service training.

Over the past five years, we have gained fame in the teacher training colleges as an organisation that provides excellent training and coaching. Many see us as the place to join ‘to learn how to be a good teacher’. Unfortunately, sometimes the fresh graduates join us to get trained and leave for a higher paying, less demanding government job with great benefits that are hard for us to match, like the two-year Child-Care Leave! Of the six teachers who left us last year, three accepted government jobs.

The problem I shared at the Challenge Carousel at the GSF event, Spotlight on Talent in Johannesburg was: To improve retention, how can we effectively position ourselves as an organisation that offers opportunities for professional growth?

At the Carousel, three groups of 7-8 members from the GSF community, all of who face similar retention challenges in their respective organisations, gave serious consideration to my problem and offered concrete and workable ideas. What made the advice I got so valuable was that I realised that I was not alone with this problem. My colleagues who were ready to share their wisdom and rich experience had grappled with the same problem.

The three eye-openers for me were:

Some attrition is, in fact, good for the health of an organisation.
This viewpoint was a novel one for me because I am always worried about the time and resources we invest in every teacher we hire. I learnt that it is vital to identify the ‘Irreplaceables’ in your organisation and work on retaining these, ‘the wisdom people’ - the ones who will stay and build the organisation. We should accept some turnover as normal.

Create a structured and scaffolded professional development programme.
It is useful to create a structured and scaffolded professional development programme that provides a clear career path for employees. This approach, I think, is beneficial in the long-run instead of promoting people before they are ready to take up specific roles just as a tactic to retain them. An example is the Spark School’s Trailblazers programme that I learnt about at the GSF Spotlight.

Invest time and energy in the hiring process
This one is obvious but forgotten when you need to hire in a hurry: invest time and energy in the hiring process as mistakes are costly!



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