Can effective leadership impact quality in schools?

What is leadership about? The word “Leadership” is one of those special words that generate mixed feelings and can be understood in different ways from various vantage points.

For some, leadership means being in a position of authority or power where one person or a group of persons give orders and make decisions while others only follow and execute if they want to avoid reprisals or repercussions.

But what if there was a different perspective? What if effective leadership involves first and foremost building a culture of trust and safety where everybody knows that they are part of the team and that their contribution really matters? What is real leadership means empowering those that we are leading instead of making them become dependent on us? What if great and successful leaders are those who don’t just demand excellence but who also exhibit a real caring attitude towards their team members?

This is exactly the approach that Wellspring Foundation has been and is still championing through its school leadership program in public schools in Gasabo (Kigali) and in the Western province of Rwanda. Wellspring teaches indeed that effectiveness in school leadership can be learned.

But can this really work? Meet Joy Umutesi, headmistress of Kacyiru Primary I.

For more than 20 years, Joy has been serving as a teacher and school leader. She is known and recognized among her colleagues and the wider community as a passionate educator and an integral school leader. She shared how Wellspring school development program played a pivotal role in teaching her how to empower and support teachers so that they can in turn help students to unlock their potential.

“Before I started being mentored by Wellspring trainers, I never thought that Wellspring’s approach could work. But what is special about Wellspring’s quality education approach is its “inside-out” nature. They don’t just equip educators with skills to help children develop cognitive skills, or to use learner-centric methodologies to actively engage students in their learning. It’s more than that. What wellspring does in schools transform lives of head teachers and teachers by refuelling their passion for student’s empowerment and by making students develop a sense of ownership in the learning process. It’s about bridging the mind and heart in order to develop competent and skilful citizens who will impact their communities. It’s about transformation. I never thought this could happen, but it really works” Joy said.

Joy’s story is a strong testimony that despite challenges faced by many public schools like overcrowded classrooms, or insufficient teaching and learning materials, effective school leadership is and will still be the required foundation for student learning achievement and quality sustainability in schools. And like in any other area, effective school leadership principles and practices can be learned, applied and transferred to teachers. And this can considerably boost students learning achievement.