The Influentials
Khotso Khabele

Leading courageous and authentic global education for today's changing world

Leading courageous and authentic global education for today's changing world

Austin Photo Set: influential_Khotso Khabele_feb 2013
Khotso Khabele Photo by Jessica Pages

"We're supposed to be preparing these kids for their lives, not some slightly different version of our own. . .So how do you prepare children for a world that you can't really imagine because of the increasing rate of change?" asks Khotso Khabele, founder of The Khabele School.

The answer, Khabele explains, lies in the school's fundamental modus operandi and holistic view of education: "The content of the school is to push the students academically, but the context there could be love. It could be connectedness."

Khotso founded the independent, coeducational school in 2001 (and current candidate for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) after what he calls a "watershed moment." "After 9/11, I went through this real period of deep anxiety and fear… but when I came out of it, I had this sense of 'Why wait, why be afraid, life is precious.' I wanted to do something transformational."

So he and his wife, only then in their early-20s, set off on founding their own school after just a few years of experience in the educational field. Together, they pored over literature on every form of curriculum, from military school to Summerhill, in order create a unique atmosphere that would lower fear and anxiety as well as promote tolerance and interpersonal relationships.

"One of the fundamental challenges in education right now is that people feel they have to choose between that academic rigor and whole happy kids — what we're trying to say is that both are essential."

Now, after a decade of dedicated refinement from the faculty and staff and support from the Austin community, The Khabele School produces around 35 graduates per year, poised to be competitive — and compassionate — on a global level.

What is your chief characteristic?

It was hard, but I think I've learned how to use my sensitivity to help children and communities develop.

Your idea of happiness?

Feeling like I'm giving life all I've got.

Your idea of misery?

A life without music.

What's your favorite place to eat — either in your hometown or the world?

Wink — I eat there every birthday. They always have a menu with "Happy Birthday, Khotso" written on it.

Your favorite heroes in real life?

Nelson Mandela for his immense capacities for forgiveness and fearlessness.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I cry often during sports movies.

If not yourself, who would you be?

An indigenous shaman or a real estate developer — or both!

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Your goal isn't to change or develop, but to become a full expression of who you are.