Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#TeacherTuesday South Africa: Teacher quality and holistic learning make a difference

This week's teacher is Shape from South Africa. She teaches English in a township just north of Johannesburg.

You can see a video created by the BBC at South African teacher with a 100% pass rate - Shape speaks passionately about ensuring the children she teachers are preparing all the time for their futures. As well as the curriculum, she teachers them about home economics, business skills and how to apply for jobs. She also does a lot of work to make sure the children are motivated and have belief in themselves. This holistic approach to learning, coupled with a caring teacher is making a difference in the lives of many senior students as they complete high school and move into the next stage of their lives. Shape is modelling an imperative approach to teaching and learning, almost devoid of technology and modern resources.

Shape shares her experiences and thoughts about teaching and learning:

About teaching in South Africa:

I was awarded the best teacher in 2012 for the whole province because of the dedication that I am displaying. This is my 21st year in teaching. In all my teaching I give 100% because I always take extra time. I give extra lessons after others go home. I remain with year 12 to teach them again, to make sure that those who did not understand, later do understand everything. Some of them are still struggling especially in terms of writing and pronunciation. That is why I am giving extra lessons. My extra lessons to help them catch up and to give them some things they have never been taught before.
In South Africa you have to have a passion to be a teacher. Here it is not an easy job. In South Africa in most cases teachers are not seen as a people who can be rich or who can be rich because the salary is not good. You never have money as a teacher! So we need to see it as a calling. You need to compromise.

It’s not an easy job. Not an easy career to be a teacher because there are too many learners to manage especially nowadays in terms of reprimanding them because you find that now and then some get involved in drugs, there are teenage pregnancy. According to the legislation we are not allowed to expel a pregnant child from school, we must take all children in school. It’s an offence to turn a pregnant child away from school. We need to be with them here at school and then we try to encourage a parent to come to babysit for them, even if a child went for a delivery after they must be bought back to school. It becomes difficult because now you must catch them up with the work they have missed. We have to keep track on where they are all the time and mark everything. Teaching must be a calling for us to do all the job.
Some local issues:
In this area, pregnancy is a problem because most of our learners they are children who are staying alone and some of them are orphans. Maybe in one year, in the whole year we might lose 20 learners to pregnancy out of 1,265. They drop because of pregnancy. 
Most of the time there are more girls than boys in the school, by about 10%. This is just the ratio of the population because there are more girls than boys. In my class, grade 12, there are ranging from 35 to 40 learners, but in lower classes there are 50.
Talking about working within the school environment and extending the learning:
After grade 12, it is their final years and we need to prepare them to go to universities or colleges so I need to ensure they’re ready to face the outside world.

I’m also involved in job/career experience. We invite companies that are the same as the career the learners, have chosen to come to our school and talk to them. They come to school and after we identify the children who can go to them and do some work to be familiar with the outside world. They go to work for a day as managers or whatever. When they come back they are able to tell us of the challenges, then the companies come again to give them more knowledge.
There is a program called ‘take a girl to work’. We always tell them why it’s important – it’s because we’re preparing them for their future.

We don’t teach each learner about computers as we don’t have enough computers, but we have ways that children can do research online, so that makes each and every one of them have a clue about computers, even if they don’t have computer classes. After school they are allowed to use computers.

Our sponsor is Oracle, so each and every year we take boys and girls so they are familiar with the technology. Most of them they’re being employed after finishing their studies by these companies.

We also have plenty of learners who are sponsored to go to college, who are from underprivileged backgrounds. They get bursaries. Already some from 2009 are working with those companies.

Not a lot of them come back as teachers. Most go to companies. We have a number of them each and every year who are at the university who come back for training to do their practicals, but most don’t like teaching.

We also teach the children home skills. We teach them how to cook and keep their houses clean, physical education, how to prepare for their futures. As an English teacher, I always make sure that when they reach grade 11, I start teaching them how to fill in forms so they can assist their community as well as their parents. I always tell them they are the eyes of the community. If there is someone struggling to fill in a form in a bank, you are the ones to help. We are taking them to orphanages so that they can go there and see how to help. We are teaching them to donate with old clothes, to make sure they assist the orphans. We also have a garden in our school, we teach them how to grow food from the soil.

We teach them business skills, we have business projects. They learn how to write a business plan. We buy some products/stock and they sell them to other learners and teachers and take money. They need to learn how much money to take from people and how much to then save. People from banks come to assist them to open bank accounts so that they can save money.
We are teaching them that when they leave school not everyone is going to be fortunate. Some, because of money, might not be able to leave the province, but they must do something. They can still go and volunteer because they can gain experience. I invite them to come and work at the library so they get experience to train them for their future. Some of them would like to be doctors. But most want to be engineers now, because in South Africa engineers is a good job, and chartered accountants opens doors for them. Now they are starting to follow that that profession to be a chartered accountant.

Final words of wisdom where Shape reveals her true love of her students:

Assure the learners they are important and they can make it. Then they start to feel very well. I want them to do better and I say ‘I know you can, I know you can.’ They start to believe in themselves.
Click the following images to open a larger version to see full details:

Education crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa

The tenth Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Putting Education to Work, reveals the urgent need to invest in skills for youth. In Sub-Saharan Africa, over 56 million people aged 15 to 24 have not even completed primary school and need alternative pathways to acquire basic skills for employment and prosperity. This is equivalent to one in three of the region’s youth population. Around two-thirds of the population in Africa are under 25-years- old. In the world, an eighth of young people is unemployed; a quarter are trapped in jobs that keep them on or below the poverty line. As the effects of the global economic crisis continue to be felt, the severe lack of youth skills is more damaging than ever.

To download the report and other relevant materials: http://www.efareport.unesco.org  
Twitter: #YouthSkillsWork.

This blog post is a contribution to Week 9 of #TeacherTuesday, a UNESCO and EFA initiative. I invite you to also read from my blog:
“Find out more about the TeacherTuesday campaign: read the blogs and join us for weekly tweetchats with the teachers”.

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