AK Arts & Leadership Academy (AKALA) is on a mission to disrupt the arts education landscape in the country by expanding access to arts education and combating arts teacher unemployment. Inspired by the radical leadership of fallen apartheid activist Ashley Kriel, AKALA is a non-profit company (NPC) founded by University of Cape Town (UCT) alumni.
Through human-centred approaches and co-creation with stakeholders, AKALA aims to advocate for the integration of the arts across all spaces of learning and design, implement arts education programmes, and capacitate the professional development of arts education students and graduates. This as a way of mitigating the crisis faced by South Africa’s arts education system, which is beset with a looming shortage of qualified arts teachers, a declining status of arts education, and limited employment opportunities for newly graduated specialist art teachers.
AKALA recently held its first event, The Co-Creation Station, where stakeholders in arts education discussed and co-created the organisation’s mission, vision, and values using design thinking. This workshop gave rise to AKALA’s Big Audacious Goal Statement, which serves as a reminder to always co-create with those who stand to benefit from the organisation’s work.
Baseline research conducted by AKALA revealed that only two in 10 schools in the Western Cape offer specialist art education subjects, with 42 out of 50 teachers who teach art subjects not suitably skilled or qualified. Moreover, there is a looming arts teacher shortage, with half of the country’s current working teaching force set to retire by 2030.
“Our aim is to make people competitive in the global workplace by nurturing future skills through advocacy and practice.”
The NPC’s long-term goal is to establish the pilot AKALA Art Centre, a combined school registered with the Provincial Education Department, offering specialist art education for grades R to 12, and specialist vocational art education for the Further Education and Training Phase. The centre will be built on a learning model that allows for dialogic theoretical engagement, critical reflexivity, and artistic mastery through rigorous experiential learning in the arts disciplines. The goal is for this centre to be the key driver of financial sustainability for AKALA in 2026 and beyond.
Luna August, theatre and performance and Postgraduate Certificate in Education graduate, and co-founder said: “AKALA wants to unlock the power of design thinking to respond to the huge crisis that we are facing in South Africa. Our aim is to make people competitive in the global workplace by nurturing future skills through advocacy and practice.”
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