Leading from the Front – Interview With The CEO Of Tomorrow Trust (James Donald) About Education & Leadership

For 16 years, Tomorrow Trust has brought to life their purpose as stated in their founding documents; to raise and distribute funds for the education of orphaned and vulnerable children.

I don’t know if I have come across an NGO that so succinctly states its purpose. In a nutshell, Tomorrow Trust dives into the deep-end of education, where neglected children, often living in child-headed households or orphanages, receive intensive after-school and holiday programmes, as well as funding for tertiary education.

Can there be anything more critical to the wellbeing of our nation and our people than education? It is widely acknowledged that the South African education system is in the doldrums. Lessons are taught (in some schools, some of the time) but very little learning seems to be taking place, judging from the 2016 PIRLS (Progress in International Literacy Study) results. Out of 50 countries, South Africa ranked last. More recent results are not yet available.

Schools on their own are just not coping. This is why the NGOs that take the educational bull by the horns and provide a comprehensive range of educational services have far more impact than schools alone.

Think back over the last twelve months. For the average South African child, formal education has taken a beating. Those who attend poorly functioning schools are doubly disadvantaged, having received little formal education since March 2020.  

What we are witnessing is a slowly unravelling crisis in the minds of our nation’s children. What chance does the average Grade 2 child stand, having entered Grade 1 without having held a pencil, being unable to write her own name, and then having missed most of Grade 1? A disadvantaged beginning affects a child throughout his school career – unless, of course, there is timely, well-designed and consistent intervention.

It is this crisis that propelled Corporate Social Responsibility News South Africa to stand up and introduce new voices in education, bringing to the world’s attention the NGOs that are doing incredible work in the sector.  We’re looking for exciting, meaningful initiatives that will take this country forward; organisations that are ushering in the changes in education we should have seen twenty years ago.

Tomorrow Trust’s Chief Executive Officer, James Donald, is absolutely passionate about the foundations of a good education, which are, essentially, stable and loving relationships and a stimulating home environment. Where the home is unable to provide these basics, organisations are able to offer a pretty workable alternative, as Tomorrow Trust has shown. 

With a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University and a history of volunteering in development programmes, Donald is ideally suited to head an innovative and comprehensive educational NGO.  His leadership is totally hands-on, in that he recognises the value of shared decision-making, deep connections and personal encouragement.

‘At Tomorrow Trust, we have opportunities to connect with young people, listen to them and understand their challenges and needs. We strive to create an environment where everyone – employees, learners and our partners – are listened to and respected, so that they can grow to be their own “best selves”.’

All aspects of their organisation are run in a collaborative, consensus-based manner. Not that everyone has to agree on everything, but everyone must feel that their opinions are heard and valued.

The Trust has designed and refined a basket of educational programmes, running over weekends and holidays, in addition to tertiary and alumni programmes that provide ongoing support for children who have come up through their ranks. We’ll be featuring more on Tomorrow Trust in the months to come. In the meantime, find them on www.tomorrow.org.za

Simphiwe Mtetwa
Simphiwe Mtetwa is South Africa’s leading Corporate Social Responsibility news, media and publishing firm. We create content on social responsibility, helping government, corporates, consultants, NPOs and NGOs to reach their target markets through appropriate, targeted development news.

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