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World Teacher’s Day: The Unsung Heroes Of SA’s Classrooms

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Almost everyone has a favourite teacher, that person they’ll never forget from their school days for the support and encouragement they got when it was most needed. But as the world marks World Teacher’s Day on 5 October this year, the role of teachers in South Africa and across the world has never been a higher priority.

While UNESCO says the COVID-19 pandemic has added significantly to the challenges faced by already over-extended education systems, including South Africa’s, teachers have risen to the myriad challenges thrown up by COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns – instituting innovative and selfless solutions to keep their learners’ educational year on track.

Multi-tasking while balancing their parental duties with the often overwhelming burden of keeping pace with their curricula – especially in resource-poor settings where online teaching is undermined by lack of access to the necessary technology – became the norm, according to teachers from across the country who shared their stories of how they have gone above and beyond for their learners during this unprecedented time.

  • Grace Pillay, a teacher at Tyburn Primary School in Chatsworth, KwaZulu-Natal, produced booklets to keep learners abreast of their studies during the lockdown – because access to the internet, online classes and virtual remote teaching just wasn’t an option in this area, which is crippled by unemployment and poverty. She says the pandemic brought everyone to their knees and takes no credit for her interventions, calling them “random acts of kindness”.  Pillay also solicited sponsors to assist with food hampers for learners when she realised that so many had no food at home because their parents had lost their jobs.
  • Anastacia Malatji, principal of Banareng Primary School in Atteridgeville, Tshwane, started a fundraising effort to provide packs of food to learners in need. She also forged a partnership with a gas supplier in order to provide under-resourced families with gas cylinders during the lockdown, and collaborated with a Swedish school to build and re-organise the classrooms to ensure that when her learners returned to school, they could safely practice social distancing.
  • In the Western Cape, teacher Florance Vermeulen from Bishop Lavis High School made sure he got in contact with each of his learners at least once a month, to check in on them. The teacher has featured prominently on social media for his concept of incorporating dancing into the days of his learners in a community notorious for gang violence and other social ills. During the lockdown, while using his own wifi for Zoom and WhatsApp classes to keep everyone up to date with their work, he also repurposed the petrol money he would have spent on his daily work commute to school to help learners in need of mental health assistance.

 Banareng Primary and Bishop Lavis High School are both beneficiaries of MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, South Africa’s leading community loyalty programme. The programme was started in 1997 by a Johannesburg parent who wanted to help his child’s school raise funds in an easy and sustainable manner. Today, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet supports more than 7 500 schools in South Africa, all of which benefit from funds raised by cardholders’ swipes. The programme also supports quality education via its Thuso Fund, which raises funds specifically for under-resourced schools across the country, and Dream2Teach, a teaching scholarship programme for talented matriculants who dream of becoming teachers but who don’t have the financial means to achieve their dream.

Paying tribute to all South Africa’s teachers on World Teacher’s Day 2020, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet general manager Pieter Twine said it was important to inspire a greater awareness of, and gratitude for the role that teachers are playing in shaping the lives of future generations, especially under the challenging lockdown conditions.

“South Africa is one of many countries in the world where the phenomenal potential of the impact of teachers is still not commensurate with their status in society,” he said, urging cardholders to keep swiping to keep helping schools in need.

Sign up at myschool.co.za or download the App today, select a school or cause, and every time you use your card at one of the programme’s retail partners, a donation will be made on your behalf – at no cost to you. You can use your MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card at Woolworths, Loot.co.za, Builders, Bidvest Waltons and more, to give back when you shop.

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