Although not privileged, Chris Bam’s parents rooted their family in education and believed that it will pave the road out of poverty for their children. Chris, now principal of Delweide Primary School, started his career with the steadfast support of his parents. After matriculating, he completed his degree at a teachers college and fell in love with teaching children. Since then, he’s been promoted within the school to become the principal in the community he loves.

When Chris Bam started teaching at a very poor school for farmworkers’ children, he could relate his upbringing and his story to the hearts of those children. At that moment, Chris realised that he was in the right place and that this is his calling. “Teaching wasn’t just going into a classroom to teach your lesson. It was all about the learner – the person and the child – their circumstances, their dreams. I just fell in love with the job, because it is all about those relationships I built with learners over the years.”

We have to overcome hurdles to become a more harmonious community.

“Our children are growing up in an era of entitlement, and that is a challenge in the classroom. But I believe that people possess more good than we think, or know. We just need to keep doing good and choose to see the good in others. We need to work hard to build relationships with people who are in our care.

Working in an environment where learners come from an impoverished community, I know that we need to build bridges, uplift relationships and see the good in others to make a success of South Africa. In doing so, we can help ease the struggle children have in their relationships at home and school.

Our school is overcrowded. We don’t have enough space for all the children who need to be enrolled. Yet, we continue to deliver an excellent education for our children and we improve through overcoming our challenges.

To manage the high expectations of the school community, I ensure that we have the correct team to make the most of the little bit we have. I want to employ the right people to work in this environment, the right people to share our vision; that we must be the best we can be for our learners and school community, and build relationships. It’s not about me as a leader, it’s about the team, the shared vision, and to see where we can change people’s minds through what we’re doing every day.”

Change happens continually through perseverance.

“We can engage in change through our partnerships. There are more than one NGO involved in our community and we go through a process every year where we discuss our short-, medium- and long-term goals. The whole community has to talk, not only parents but also the business community and other NGOs working in our area. We have to be vulnerable, build trust, say where we can improve, and try to create a common vision that everyone will work towards.

It’s important to listen when creating a shared vision, one where we know what we’re going to do to change our community, and give our learners an idea of what they can achieve when they work hard, and when they work with us as a school community.”

Whatever the situation, there is always hope.

“You need to be vulnerable as a leader. You shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes but let your passion reflect in your daily life in everything you do. Surround yourself with people who share your values. Strive to leave a situation and environment better than how you found it. I base my leadership style on some of the principles I have learned from others. Through mentorship, and by surrounding yourself with people you look up to, you will improve yourself and grow.”