John Gilmour, BA is an educational social entrepreneur and activist who has piloted and scaled a programme to cultivate the holistic development of marginalised children living in townships in South Africa. Incensed by the inequality in the education system and its overemphasis on cognition, he made it his mission to flip this pedagogy to integrate much neglected social and emotional learning (SEL) as part of the school curriculum, which focuses on self-liberation, self-empowerment, and the development of personal resilience.

John obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cape Town. He taught English and Geography and was a student guidance counsellor at Bergvliet High School and Pinelands High School, before being appointed as Principal at Abbott’s College for five years.

Following a long and often frustrating stint as a teacher and many years of involvement in the community, John founded the first LEAP Science and Maths School serving the township community of Langa in 2004. LEAP’s founding premise is that every human being—regardless of physical and socio-economic condition, ethnicity, gender, and religious beliefs—has the capacity to become a creative, productive change agent and champion within any community in the global village.

As Executive Director of LEAP, John has overseen the growth of the organization from a single school with 72 learners in 2004 to currently six low-fee schools impacting the lives of 1650 learners who reside in the township communities of Langa and Phillipi in the Western Cape, Alexandra, Diepsloot and Ga-Rankuwa in Gauteng and Jane Furse in Limpopo.

Mindful of the need for educational transformation to be systemic, John co-founded and serves in a number of organisations,  whose mission is to improve the educational outcomes for children living in resource-poor communities through collaboration, networking, and peer-learning. He co-founded BRIDGE  focusing on linking and replicating innovation in education through communities of practice. In collaboration with other leaders in education, John co-founded The South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition (SAESC). The Coalition represents a collection of intervention-based independent and public schools and organisations committed to transforming the lives of socio-economically vulnerable children. Continuing the vision of LEAP as an incubator of educational teacher/leadership training, in 2015, John led the spinoff of LEAPs sister organisation, the Global Teachers Institute.

John serves on the boards of Global Teachers InstituteTeach with Africa, Edunova,  Itemba Lethu, REALISTIC boards, as well as NASCEE. He remains an active participant in the education work stream of Re-Imagine South Africa.


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