Teachers that go the extra mile.It’s understandable that schools in South Africa tend to focus quite fervently on receiving a matric certificate at the end of Grade 12. However, an unfortunate result is that the important role of educational interventions outside of the classroom is too often pushed aside. Yet the benefits of such activities can be long-lasting and affect learners’ knowledge and ways of thinking. This year’s Stars in Education Awards highlighted how individual teachers are going beyond what is expected from them to provide their learners with these benefits.
Head of Marketing at GreaterGood, Roxy Mitchell, recently served on the judging panel of these Awards. She was inspired by the awesome work that teachers do over and above their official roles in helping their communities and providing their learners with further learning opportunities they would never have dreamt of.
"At GreaterGood, we have been privileged to see the impact of learning interventions beyond the classroom and to hear the stories that are often overshadowed by the focus on the final exams. The recent announcement of the top ten teachers in the Stars in Education Awards provided further reinforcement," comments Roxy.
Recognizing our country’s shining stars
The teacher who most impressed the judges was Phuti Ragophala, a primary school principal from Limpopo. A leading example of dedication to her school and community, she established a garden that both the learners and their parents maintain. The garden also feeds orphans and vulnerable children in the surrounding community. She’s also taught the children and community the medicinal value of plants which provide an affordable means of health treatment. Not satisfied with her already impressive feats, she secured 900 layermash chickens from the Department of Agriculture. Besides feeding the community, the production and packaging of eggs has been incorporated into the maths curriculum and used for explaining concepts such as data collection.
A case in point
Another finalist, KwaZulu-Natal based teacher Sibongile Khosa has also established a successful vegetable garden. Over and above providing food for the community and teaching learners gardening principles, learners now sell some of the produce, providing them with a practical introduction to entrepreneurship that they never would have gained in a classroom. Another stand-out KZN teacher is Kritisha Rajcoomar. She has trained 149 learners from 34 schools to be climate justice ambassadors for the upcoming COP17 in Durban. This will provide them with an exciting opportunity to attend an international event and learn from the greatest minds in the environmental world.
These women remind us that there are still stars in our education system who are doing their best to provide learners with insight and learning far beyond what is available in a textbook. Using what are often simple ideas, they are running well-designed projects that are aligned to learning outcomes and benefit learners’ growth and knowledge.
Promoting good practices
Implemented randomly, programmes can prove costly with little lasting impact. There needs to be a defined purpose for any activity and the learning outcomes must be clearly established. The responsibility lies with teachers and potential funders to do their research on good practices and approaches that promote learning while providing learners with the excitement of something new that will remain in their memories for years to come. With these good practices in mind, learners can benefit from environmental awareness programmes such as Beyond Expectation Environmental Project that incorporate the value of lifeskills and responsibilities and SERI's robotics workshops that introduce learners to advanced science concepts and promote teamwork.