MEC of Education, Minister Debbie Schäfer at The Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute

Debbie Schafer, MPP

Western Cape Minister of Education

Note: Today, Minister Debbie Schäfer addressed 160 Educators from across the province that attended a 5 day workshop on Women in and into Management and Leadership Positions Workshop presented by Cape Teaching Leadership Institute. The following is an extract of her speech.

I am very pleased to see this workshop is specifically addressing women in management and leadership positions.  I think that for too long women have not occupied leadership and management positions not because we are not capable, but because we are products of our society and do not always have the confidence in our own abilities.  I really hope that this workshop will help change that.

Being a woman in a leadership position is not easy.  We face many barriers getting into the position in the first place, and when we are in it, very often we face further issues that make it difficult to continue to occupy that position and progress further up the ladder.

I want to emphasize to you the very unique leadership role that each of you has every day of your lives.

I am not sure if you all realise or always fully appreciate and acknowledge the incredible influence you have on every child in your classroom.  Teachers are looked up to as role models.  You are watched closely, and everything you do will be remembered far, far beyond the time for which you have that child in your classroom.

I remember my teachers even from primary school.  I remember the nice ones and the not so nice ones, and I remember the day I was screamed at in Grade 2 for a completely unfair reason.

What you do affects your students.  What you say to someone because you are having a bad day can affect a child for the rest of its life.

You have the power to change the attitudes of boys and girls in your classroom.  You have the power to encourage girls that they can do whatever they choose, that they have the ability to be a leader in any field they choose.

You are the leaders today who are influencing the leaders of the future – you can influence hugely how those future leaders will act, how the women will act towards other women and men, how the men will act towards other men and women, and what kind of society we will live in.  It is an immense responsibility.

You can either choose to use it to encourage people to be the best that they can be, or you can, like my Grade 7 teacher, “encourage” them by making them want to prove you wrong.

I sincerely hope that you will choose the former.  But I hope especially that you will not choose to discourage them from believing in themselves and following their dreams.

Ultimately, leadership is action, not a position.  Let us be the person we would want to follow.

And let’s remember, we make a living by what we get – we make a life by what we give.