College of Education

Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future

Unisa’s College of Education (CEDU) celebrated World Teachers’ Day on 1 October 2020. The theme for 2020 is "Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future". The Covid-19 pandemic did not stop teachers from continuing their work to empower nations globally. Prof Meahabo Magano, who manages the portfolio of Teaching and Learning in CEDU, led the proceedings.

Prof Phaladi Sebate, the acting Executive Dean of CEDU, welcomed the audience and emphasised that "we celebrate this day as teachers, and we build lives and empower learners to face the world with courage. Teachers give hope and strength." He talked about the ageing cohort of teachers and the critical and dire need of the college to reskill and upskill new, young teachers. CEDU is involved in taking the country’s agenda to produce quality and excellent teachers. Currently, there are 106 482 student teachers who should serve the country and other parts of the globe. Therefore, CEDU is rightly positioned to celebrate and honour teachers.

Mr Mashele, Principal of Limpopo Mogodumo Circuit Serokolosenyane Primary School, showcased a community engagement project led by Dr Margaret Maja to empower teachers to teach English First additional Language in the circuit and how it improved their teaching. Ms Mvunyiswa, the Principal of Ekukhanyisweni Primary School in the Johannesburg East District, was grateful that the project led by Dr Solomon Mawela had upskilled and supported deputy principals as curriculum and instructional leaders. Both principals pointed out that despite Covid-19, through the help and support from CEDU’s community engagement projects, teachers forged ahead and were empowered to teach in a blended mode, even during a moment of crisis.

The keynote address was given by the CEO of the South African Council of Educators (SACE), Ella Mokgalane, who presented a thought-provoking presentation and reminded the audience about the teachers’ professional role, even during moments of crisis. Mokgalane appreciated Unisa’s role, emphasised how teachers’ voices matter during crises, and the duty of care and servanthood ethos in their profession. She further highlighted the importance of digital literacy in teacher training in higher education teaching practice, referring to the World Teachers’ Day 2020 theme of "Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future".

In addition, Covid-19 taught us the value of tolerance and ethical dilemmas that we need to deal with and human rights basics that must be considered. Mokgalane emphasised that the celebration of World Teachers’ Day must be inclusive in the sense that not only classroom-based educators must be celebrated but also office-based educators and the teacher educators in higher education, like lecturers.

She pointed out the emotional and psychosocial support that teachers need is often ignored, particularly during times of crises such as the pandemic. ICT competence should be considered in teacher preparation and upskilling teachers who are already in the profession. She praised the teachers who were resilient and showed passion even while dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is important that academics consider practitioner-based research and she challenged the college to collaborate with SACE to have more research papers in that sphere. In concluding her address, Mokgalane mapped a planned scenario by illustrating that if you plant a tree today, somebody will enjoy the shade tomorrow. This implies that to empower and capacitate a teacher is to invest in the future of the profession and the nation.

The celebration was graced by two poets - a student in the College of Education, Selina Mahlangu, and Dr Maapola-Thobejane - who praised the teachers and the important role that they play in the lives of learners, even during crisis moments.

Pretoria Boys High School students presented their campaign project on gender-based violence; they highlighted the importance of women and how they should be celebrated. The project leader for the campaign, Drew Junior Gcabashe, and their teacher, Elena Fratini, graced the event.

In implementing the university’s transformation agenda, CEDU ensured that the entire event had sign language interpreters; they were Sophy Mabaso from Unisa’s Advocacy and Resource Centre for Students with Disabilities (ARCSWiD), and Winnie Ngobeni, a teacher from Bloemfontein. Prof Seroto, the acting Deputy Executive Dean of the College of Education, thanked everybody and concluded the event.

* By Meahabo Magano, Professor in Psychology of Education and Manager, Teaching Learning Community Engagement and Student Support, College of Education

Publish date: 2020/10/07