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Call to urgently equip teachers for future generations

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 06 Oct 2022

Investing in resources like the internet, devices, wide-scale training and instructional materials has been highlighted among the key enablers to improve teaching outcomes on the African continent.

This emerged during HP’s #NextGen Educators Forum, a high-level virtual panel discussion featuring experts from the African education sector.

HP convened the forum to commemorate World Teachers' Day and discuss strategies aimed at equipping African teachers of today with the necessary skills to take the future of education on the continent forward.

Co-convened in partnership with the International Labour Organisation, Unicef and Education International, World Teachers' Day is observed every year on 5 October to honour teachers. It seeks to consider issues related to teachers and teaching, focusing on appreciation, assessment and changes required for teachers to execute their duties.

During the #NextGen Educators Forum discussion, the panel of experts agreed teachers need the necessary skillsets to change the nature of education on the continent.

Simi Nwogugu, CEO of Junior Achievement Africa, states: “Educators need to understand that their traditional role as expert imparting knowledge has evolved to that of facilitating knowledge-acquisition, design thinking and critical reasoning skills in their students.

“To do this effectively, educators themselves need to be equipped with these and other emotional intelligence skills to be able to continually adapt to the needs of the students under their charge. Forums like this help steer all of us in the education sector in the right direction for how best to empower teachers to be more effective in the classroom.”

Folawe Omikunle, chief executive at Teach for Nigeria, adds: “The only way African countries can reach their full potential is by investing in education. By investing in teachers, we are investing in our children’s futures, and inevitably that of our continent.”

A recent education-focused survey in Africa, conducted by HP, revealed 70% of teachers surveyed said soft skills − such as creative, innovative, critical and entrepreneurial thinking − as well as digital literacy are very important.

The survey sought to shed light on teachers’ skillsets and how the profession can be improved in SA and Nigeria.

It noted that 89% of teachers surveyed said access to adequate technological resources is an issue – a crucial aspect of teaching that has been overlooked for over a decade but has been brought to the fore by the pandemic.

Also, one in three teachers said they could benefit from additional training to improve their skillsets and that the development would have an enormous impact on teaching.

During the panel discussion, Brian Schreuder, former superintendent general at the Western Cape Education Department and specialist advisor, highlighted governments have fallen short on empowering teachers to be at the heart of education recovery and renewal.

“There’s been no, or little, systemic training of teachers and retraining of teachers across our continent. How do we expect them therefore to cope if we just suddenly and miraculously want them to renew an education system?

“They’ve not even been exposed to modern techniques and modern technologies or pedagogies. If they are, it can be used as time-saving, learning support technologies, and make teachers’ lives and learning outcomes better as well.

“We have the potential to leapfrog inequality; we have it in our grasp.”

Commenting on the impact brought about by COVID-19, Schreuder noted that, if anything, the disruption proved the sector was resilient.

The pandemic pushed the envelope when it came to tech-based education.

Says Schreuder: “We witnessed teachers implementing innovative strategies to keep learning at critical points of the schooling year. Armed with even better tools and relevant training, African teachers can transform this sector.”

4IR impact

Also commemorating World Teachers' Day yesterday, president Cyril Ramaphosa said as the country works to ensure schools are suitable places for learning, teachers must also be equipped for the challenges and opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

He was speaking at the national general council of the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) held in Kempton Park, Gauteng.

“As we undertake far-reaching reforms in our telecommunications industry and increase our investment in infrastructure, we need to ensure schools and other educational facilities are the first beneficiaries of ICT infrastructure,” said the president.

“We call on the private sector to work with us to invest in the upgrading, modernisation and expansion of our school infrastructure to benefit all learners, particularly in under-served areas.”

In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, the president indicted SADTU has a significant role to play in ensuring its members are ready for new technology and new subjects as part of the shared effort to get learners ready for this new world.

He emphasised teachers need to educate learners about the benefits and risks associated with emerging media and technology.

“We understand the Teacher Union Collaboration, that is responsible for equipping our teachers with the skills and capabilities to implement coding and robotics in schools, is being well-received by teachers. We commend SADTU for the role it is playing in the training of 32 000 of our teachers in this regard.”

The president added the basic education sector needs to work collaboratively with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation to advance the 4IR in the education system.