The recent financial assistance of the Australian High Commission in Pretoria assisted three Southern African Australia Awards alumni associations in revitalising themselves after completing capacity-building workshops for members. Sustainability and new leadership thinking were central themes of the training applications that the associations submitted in the first half of 2023. They each received an amount of AUD 5,000 for projects which varied from building leadership capacity (Botswana and Lesotho) to a financial literacy program for the association membership (Namibia).
The Association of Botswana Australia Alumni (AoBAA)
The Botswana project concentrated on competencies and skills that will make the association relevant, effective, and sustainable. Twenty alumni from a range of diverse sectors participated in the training on leadership, entrepreneurship, project management, and sustainability at the Ave Maria Hotel and Conference Centre in Gaborone on 11 and 12 August 2023. The initiative aimed to improve and empower the association membership with fundamental leadership skills and proficiency. Eighty-five percent of the participants were women and one participant lives with a disability.
The association leadership also partnered with the Camphill Community Trust (CCT) to repeat the training for 30 CCT leaders at their offices in Otse on 28 August 2023. The association has a long relationship with CCT. A young entrepreneur and business communication specialist, Ms Malebogo Marumoagae of Excellence IQ Solutions, conducted both workshops.
According to the association treasurer, Barnabas Morake, the members’ leadership training, happened at the right time as it is much needed in their careers as well. “We are looking forward to the application of the new competencies across sectors to drive the President’s mindset change campaign. This initiative aims to drive transformation through a shift in attitudes and perspectives to achieve productivity and create a better future for everyone”, he says.
Workshop participant, Portia Oteng Oforile-Tapa, says: “As a Lecturer, I now know that communication comes in many forms of which body language is critical. I will use the communication tools to enhance mutual understanding with my students and colleagues.” Participant, Mokgadi Mabua, learned to be a better supervisor who listens more and talks less.
To ensure that the results last long after completion of the training, the association wants the first group of trainees to cascade their knowledge down to other alumni association members. In this way, they hope to increase the pool of alumni who benefit from the training. Each sectorial group intends to establish a Community of Practice (CoP) to drive research, collaboration and advocacy across the different sectors and areas of common interest.
According to Barnabas, the CCT training participants were particularly happy with the timing of the project. The training benefitted CCT immensely as the COVID-19 pandemic affected them severely and a restructuring of the organisation took place. This means that the community would also benefit from the newly acquired skills and knowledge of the Trust’s leaders who are now equipped with better skills to serve the community.
CCT is a community located in the village of Otse, 50km from the Botswana capital. They provide primary school education for more than 60 children aged between five and 14 years with learning difficulties and related disabilities, and post-primary technical and vocational training for pupils aged 14 years and older with learning difficulties or disabilities. A transition support program offers assistance to graduates in finding employment or other ways to sustain their livelihoods.
The CCT emphasised the importance of the long-standing partnership and is looking forward to future collaborations. They thanked the Australian Government for their kindness and the training opportunity. One of the CCT leaders said: “I am ready to be a more effective leader and cultivate a growth mindset” while another commented ”looking forward to strengthening my capability to influence change and political ownership in strategy and policy development”.
The Australian Alumni Association of Lesotho (AAAL)
The Australian Alumni Association of Lesotho (AAAL) also opted for leadership training for its members. Twenty alumni attended a three-day workshop at Tribute Guest Lodge from 26 to 28 July 2023 to learn more about the Systems Thinking Model of Leadership. The association elected a new leadership committee at their Annual General Meeting which took place at the same time. The association also launched their website (www.australianalumni.org.ls) during the event.
The aim of the leadership training was to build the team and capacitate members on persuasive communication, conflict management, community service, group dynamics and forming partnerships with other associations. A motivational speaker from the company Mind Liberation Psychology Consultancy, Tsepang Majara, delivered a one-hour session. The Permanent Secretary of Education of the Government of Lesotho, Dr John Oliphant delivered the closing remarks on day 3. Dr Oliphant was so impressed by the community work of the association that he accepted membership. It turned out Dr Oliphant did research for his PhD studies at the University of Newcastle in Australia for six months.
The association chairperson, Malehloenya Nkhasi, was re-elected as chairperson of the AAAL.
She mentioned that the workshop opened the eyes of both the association leaders and members. “We are expecting better participation and dedication from members, better leadership, communication and sharing of information. Committee members are now aware that a system-thinking approach demands collaboration and a sharing of roles and responsibilities in the association”, she says.
According to the Secretary of the association, Makhotso Liphoto, the motivational talk revived her and reminded her of being a torchbearer for the association. “The systems approach has helped me understand my role in engaging and serving other association members”, she says.
The systems approach demonstrated the roles of both members and the leadership in creating an active and vibrant association. The organisers are positive that the training will motivate members to be more involved in the association’s activities as everyone is now more aware of their role in the success of the association.
“Each one of us has a role to play and as such we have to be active in the Association’s activities. We believe the diverse skills and experiences members gained from the training, will improve activity outcomes if we all make an effort”, says Malehloenya. ”Another association member, Teboho Moahloli, mentioned “The AAAL is an association with a clear vision, purpose and action plan. I see maturity in the members’ actions and believe that Lesotho will benefit a lot from our community projects.
Australia Awards will report more on the Namibian Association’s project soon.