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Spotlight on Talent: Member Voices


GSF’s Spotlight on Talent: Member Voices

GSF organised an in-person Spotlight on the theme of Talent.
This blog shares the perspectives of three members who attended the event.

Global Schools Forum organised its inaugural Spotlight this February in Johannesburg on the theme of talent - a critical area for all GSF members, irrespective of the context in which they operate. Twenty participants representing 13 member organisations in 8 countries spent three days sharing Talent-related challenges, successes, and lessons learnt.

We discussed Talent through three different sub-themes:
  • Hiring Right as a Retention Device
  • Motivating, Celebrating (and Retaining!) Your Staff
  • Building Career Ladders

The Spotlight was member-led. Participants presented their organizational efforts on Talent, engaged in panel discussions with teachers and leaders from member schools based in South Africa, and had an opportunity to visit GSF member schools that operate in Johannesburg. We were honoured to have Dr. Lindiwe Ginya as a keynote, sharing her inspiring leadership story and providing a terrific introduction to the South African educational context.

Hira Nomani from Pakistan, Samuel Shawa from Zambia, and Urmila Chowdhury from India were three of the fantastic participants. Read more about their work and their experience at the Spotlight below

description Urmila Chowdhury
Peepul, India
description Samuel Shawa
Impact Network, Zambia

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. 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.

One of the sub-themes explored at the Spotlight was Hiring as a Retention Tool, and it was 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.

Courtesy: TCF

The spotlight also served as a handy platform to learn from peer organizations. I found it interesting to learn how different participants are responding and dealing with a varied collection of Hiring-related challenges in their work and context. The discussions with the participants gave me a lot to think about to 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 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.

Through the three days at the GSF Spotlight, we had many interactions with 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 is a structured 18-months long training for teachers and staff to prepare for leadership positions while they continue in their respective roles. It’s a highly selective programme and has proved successful in retaining high-quality talent at SPARK. A mandatory qualification of this program is that the applicants should have worked at SPARK for at least a year.

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 whom 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!

Hira Nomani works as a Senior Manager - Schools HR at the Citizens Foundation. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing talent acquisition and enhancing the quality of human resources employed in TCF schools. Her work spans over a network of more than 1,500 TCF Schools located in over 700 slums and villages across Pakistan. TCF may be the largest private employer of women in Pakistan with over 12,000 female faculty.
She oversees the recruitment, selection, induction, and retention of the highest quality teachers and principals in communities where children have historically been out of school. Additionally, She is developing a rewards and recognition program to drive performance and motivation among teachers.

Urmila Chowdhury has been an educator for almost 30 years. She started her career as a teacher in La Martiniere for Girls, Kolkata. During her two decades in schools, she has been teacher, Head of Department, Academic Coordinator and finally Vice Principal at the prestigious Shri Ram School in New Delhi.
In 2009, Urmila started making wider contributions to education, shifting her focus to teacher training and textbook and curriculum writing. During this time, she did a variety of other things such as English language learning for adults, creative writing for primary and secondary school students, and Drama in Education.
Since 2012 she has focused specifically on working with children from underprivileged backgrounds and developing solutions to the challenges that they face in learning. She has previously worked as a consultant with the Ahvaan Trust for Education, the Aga Khan Foundation and the Tiara Charitable Foundation. Urmila joined Ark India in 2015 as the Executive Principal of Lajpat Nagar.

Samuel Shawa holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with Development Studies from The University of Zambia. He also holds a certificate in Statistical Package Training Program focusing on Microsoft Office, SPSS, STATA and E-VIEWS.
Prior to joining Impact Network in 2018, he served as an Administrative Assistant at Delta Auto & Equipment Ltd. He is currently pursuing his Master of Science in Financial Engineering, an online program with Worldquant University, USA.

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