fbpx

On a sunny yet chilly morning in the middle of September, we sat down with Sixolile Mabombo, the Director of Finance and Operations at Africa Resource Centre and, The Learning Trust’s recently elected Board Chair. Xoli has over 15 years of experience in financial services, having worked at five reputable corporate organisations in her career, including Deloitte and Absa WIMI. She has also applied her skills to long-term impact projects focused on improving the quality of learning outcomes. This includes programmes such as the Data-Driven Districts Dashboard and Gradesmatch.

With a cup of coffee in hand and the comfort of her swivel chair in her home-office, Xoli dove into a 2-hour long chat with us. We covered everything from her unusual entry into the Education Space from Absa WIMI; what excites her about stepping into the role as TLT’s Board Chair; the untapped power of the After School sector; and what ‘keeping the door open’ means in her new role. In this two-part Q&A feature, we share her brilliant insights on all these topics and more.

 

PART 1

 

Mila:

Thank you so much for taking the time for this chat. Let’s get right into it. Tell me, how has it been to step into the role of Board Chair, especially taking it over from the Founder?

Xoli:

Well, I tried not to think too much about it, honestly speaking. I didn’t want to psych myself out of just enjoying the moment for what it is, and also recognizing how amazing it is because these kinds of transitions often don’t go according to what the Founder anticipated. But Christine let go so gracefully and just stepped into her trustee role whilst supporting Allan in the transitional period when they handed-over to me. It was great because I got to really understand the history of TLT.

Mila:

What was your background in the field of education before taking on this position at TLT?

Xoli:

My time in education is quite short in a professional full-time capacity. My interaction with the space has always been on a volunteer basis and that I’ve done all my life, pretty much. But I connected deeply with Christine in terms of what I believe is the road forward as informed by the founding principles of why TLT exists or should exist.

Mila:

So, what are your thoughts on TLT’s entry into the After School Education sector in particular, especially focused on supporting young-emerging organisations?

Xoli:

I think it’s such a niche yet very important space. Most of the funders that I’ve interacted with are really nervous to play in this space. So for me, it was quite courageous for TLT to begin with a strategy to really target those organisations that wouldn’t get funding otherwise. And then watching those organisations, grow – taking them through a process of development where they are now suitable for larger institutional funders – is transformational. I think one of the areas that we fail at as a country is we don’t take risks in the right places and put our conviction behind the things that we say we believe will make a difference. That’s what I really admired about Christine; she put her money where her mouth is and really went for it and look at what she’s built.

Mila:

How do you see yourself fitting into what Christine has built?

Xoli:

I see myself very much in a support role. It’s not just a typical Chairpersonship, it’s really getting to grips with what does TLT need from me and how can I best support it with the skillset that I bring and that’s the basis that I’m building with. I’m very excited about an alternative form of funding that is corporate supported or even a government youth development bond that actually speaks to a relevant issue. For me, it speaks to where After School fits in the education value chain. My main job right now is to keep the door open.

Mila:

And what does keeping the door open mean for you?

Xoli:

I feel like I’ve achieved, for the most part, what it is that I’ve wanted to achieve in my career and so on. My job now is to always make sure that the door is open and to share as much of that skill as I possibly can. But I don’t have access to kids. I don’t have access to teenagers outside of my own personal space and outside of my volunteer space. The people that are working in this space for me are really the underdeveloped gold of this country; they are doing the mining right now, they’re mining for us and we don’t actually give them the credit and the support that they should get. Obviously, this is not ideal in the sense that, programmes fail – not because they weren’t a great idea, but because they didn’t get the right support or the funding. And to me, as TLT, we have an opportunity to make an impact in that space by keeping our doors open.

Mila:

What excites you about being in this role as TLT Board Chair?

Xoli:

I guess I finally get to put my money where my mouth is. I get to participate in fleshing out, testing and piloting some of these ideas that I’ve had about where the problems are and how to we fix them? I’m excited because people trusted me with this role, which is something that’s special in and of itself – for people to actually see my contribution and say to themselves, “yes, this is the person we want to help lead the way.” That is very humbling for me. What’s also exciting me is I get to try things. I get to put my support behind organisations that I feel strongly about. There’s very little challenge in terms of things that need to be ‘fixed’ at TLT, so I feel the challenge is really in the building and the dreaming bigger and bolder.

 

“The opportunity for [TLT] to be a catalytic organisation is too precious and too ripe for us to miss. And right now, all the elements are working in our favour.”

Share this article: