SPARK Soweto makes final 3 for World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration 2023

Published: Friday, October 27, 2023

Education TrainingCommunity AffairsCommunity DevelopmentYouthWelfareGovernment

A South African school has been named a top 3 finalist for the USD$250 000 World’s Best School Prizes 2023.

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The five World's Best School Prizes, founded last year by T4 Education in collaboration with Accenture, American Express, Yayasan Hasanah and the Lemann Foundation, are the world's most prestigious education prizes.

SPARK Soweto, an independent, partially government-funded kindergarten and primary school in Johannesburg, South Africa, which has become a catalyst for change for its disadvantaged community that was once symbolic of the struggle against Apartheid, has made the final 3 for the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration 2023.

The five World's Best School Prizes — for Community Collaboration, Environmental Action, Innovation, Overcoming Adversity and Supporting Healthy Lives — celebrate schools everywhere for the pivotal role they play in developing the next generation of learners and for their enormous contribution to society's progress, especially in the wake of Covid-19.

The prizes were established to share the best practices of schools that are transforming the lives of their students and making a real difference in their communities.

The winners of the five prizes will be chosen by an expert Judging Academy based on rigorous criteria. In addition, T4 Education has launched a new Community Choice Award this year — open to the 15 schools that make up the top 3 finalists across all five World's Best School Prizes — and given to the one school that inspires the most support in a Public Vote, which opened today.

The winner of the Community Choice Award will receive membership to T4 Education's new Best School to Work programme, an independent, evidence-based mechanism to certify schools for their culture and help them transform their working environment to attract and retain the best teachers.

Vikas Pota, founder of T4 Education and the World's Best School Prizes, says, "Congratulations to SPARK Soweto on being named a top 3 finalist for the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration 2023. You, and your fellow finalists, have inspired me with the leadership, vision and culture you have fostered and the exceptional teaching and learning environment you have built."   

"As the world seeks to tackle a deepening education crisis, this outstanding South African school lights the path to a better future. It's time for governments everywhere to listen to your voice and learn from your expertise," Pota adds.

SPARK Soweto is an independent, partially government-funded kindergarten and primary school in Johannesburg, South Africa. By prioritising affordability, community engagement and environmental stewardship, this school has become a catalyst for change for its disadvantaged community, which was once symbolic of the struggle against Apartheid, says the school. 

According to the school, with initiatives that tackle social and economic challenges head-on, such as curbing local unemployment and addressing gender-based violence, the impact this school has made in such a short time is the result of listening and responding to the community.

SPARK Soweto's model is rooted in the five core values of service, persistence, achievement, responsibility, and kindness (SPARK), and the school's community is further enshrined in the sixth core value of Ubuntu — 'I am because we are'.  As such, the school prioritised community engagement from its very inception which involved interacting with and surveying the community to understand their educational and social needs, the school adds. 

Based on that understanding, the school launched a number of community initiatives to help address the challenges of its surrounding area, such as its Environmental Stewardship programme, which involved cleaning the surrounding areas and erecting permanent concrete bins to curb waste pollution. This helped instill environmental responsibility and stewardship in the community. 

The school also addressed local unemployment by prioritising the hiring of local youth who have just completed their undergraduate studies. The school engaged with the local municipal counsellor and formed an agreement that at least 30% of the people hired at SPARK Soweto must reside within the Soweto community.

The school says that as a result, over 60% of the staff that work at SPARK Soweto were residents of Soweto, which further solidified the school's investment in making the community better. 

Other initiatives include a Christmas drive each year to balance the socio-economic struggles during the festive season, and counselling to educate and raise awareness about Gender-Based Violence in South Africa. 

In an important example, that the community has adopted the school as a result of its efforts, community members took it upon themselves to check on the school and its buildings for any signs of damage, day and night, during recent riots. Significantly, while several buildings in the area were attacked, the school its left untouched.

If SPARK Soweto wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, the school intends to continue to build on the community initiatives that have already shown significant impact. The school believes that it takes a village to raise tomorrow's leaders and is committed to investing in the community that supports the school, adds the school.

The winner of each of the five World's Best School Prizes will be announced in November. The winner of each prize will be chosen based on rigorous criteria by a Judging Academy comprising distinguished leaders across the globe including:

  • academics
  • educators
  • NGOs
  • social entrepreneurs
  • government
  • civil society, and
  • the private sector.


A prize of US$250 000 will be equally shared among the winners of the five prizes, with each receiving an award of US$50 000. 

The winner of the new Community Choice Award — chosen by a public vote — will be announced at the same time. The Community Choice Award may be given to any top 3 finalist who receives the most public votes, irrespective of whether they win one of the five World's Best School Prizes.

All the top 3 finalists will share their best practices through School Transformation Toolkits and events on the T4 Communities app.

T4 Education says that it believes every child everywhere deserves a good education. The initiative is building the world's largest community of teachers and schools to achieve this. Together. T4 Education adds that digital media platform provides opportunities for educators to:

  • network
  • collaborate
  • share good practices, and
  • support each other's efforts to improve learning and school culture.


We work to amplify teachers’ voices because the world we want to see will only be built by listening to those at the heart of education, says T4 Education. Our global community of over 200 000 teachers and our digital media platform provides an engine for organisations to run education prizes that cut through in both the international media and the public consciousness, concludes the initiative. 

For more information, contact Salman Shaheen at

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