We Are Teaching the Habits of Unlearning

Claudia Leisinger
Sustainable Cities
“I declared war on the system from within.”
John Gilmour

Be fearful of authorities, avoid risks, and always smile, even when in doubt - these are some of the rules John Gilmour grew up with as a young white man in South Africa. When he became a teacher himself, he decided to turn them upside down. He opened the first LEAP Science and Maths School serving the township community of Langa in 2004. John is not only a lifelong teacher, he is an activist trying to transform society in South Africa, which is one of the most unequal societies in the world.

LEAP is a leading learning organization which aims to give young South Africans the academic and life skills they need to become future leaders. LEAP now consists of six no-fee, independent high schools serving students living in the township communities of Langa and Gugulethu in the Western Cape; Alexandra, Diepsloot, and Ga-Rankuwa in Gauteng; and Jane Furse in Limpopo.

Participants of the BMW Foundation Global Table in Cape Town on “Leading Towards Equal Opportunities” visited the school in Langa in 2018. They experienced first-hand a unique, self-liberating high school program. The aim is to build strong social and emotional skills, bridge the education divide between privileged and marginalized kids, and empower students to take care of their own life – ultimately transforming the system.

John co-founded Bridge, which focuses on linking and replicating innovation in education. In collaboration with other leaders in education, he also co-founded The South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition. John serves on the Teach with Africa and Edunova boards and is an Ashoka Fellow.


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