Transformation and inclusivity are on the top of the agenda for Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School’s principal as she prepares to take on her first full academic year at the school.
Belinda Petersen took up her post in July last year and said she took the last few months to observe, settle in and engage with the staff.
“During this time I had one-on-one meetings, as well as group meetings and spent time building relations – this is how I lead,” she said.
After completing her studies, Ms Petersen worked with youth and children at schools, teaching life skills – which she said had helped give her solid grounding for her future academic journey.
She started teaching grades 1 to 4 at St Anthony’s Primary School in Heathfield in 2004 and worked there for just over nine years.
“It was a good place to learn and put my skills to use. I was given a lot of opportunities at the school to grow,” she said.
In 2013, Ms Petersen was appointed as the head of department at Plumstead Preparatory and it was during this time, where she found her real passion – people development.
In 2016, she took up a post as principal of Ottery Road Methodist Primary School, where she learnt more about running a school.
“Each school I was at had its own challenges and opportunities for me to grow. I have been exposed to different areas and leadership roles,” she said.
Ms Petersen later joined UCT’s principal academy, where she was assigned a retired principal. She also joined Partners for Possibility, a flagship programme of Symphonia for South Africa which is a co-learning partnership between school principals and business leaders.
“I have learnt so much through these two programmes, from skills development, to learning what it takes to be a principal, running a school but also how to grow my staff and how to work with parents,” she said.
Ms Petersen said her goal for Rustenburg Junior is to continually reflect the richness and diversity of the country and Cape Town in particular not just in terms of race, culture and language but all aspects and work on changing how the school is perceived.
“As head of the school I will continue to have ‘courageous’ conversations and look at what we can do to bring about change. We need to continually hold up the mirror and see where the gaps are. We are going to be more intentional in the way we do things at this school as we are essentially preparing our girls for the future,” she said.
Ms Petersen said while she missed being a teacher and engaging and connecting with the pupils on a more deeper level, she believes that by investing and impacting the staff it would filter to the classroom.
“My passion is working with people and I believe this is where I have been gifted,” she said.
Ms Petersen said while the task at hand was daunting, she was excited about the journey. She said the school had made strides in terms of transformation over the last four years. “We will get things wrong but the important thing is that we learn from them and strive to do better.”