Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Recognising past winners

2008:  Teacher recognised for taking the lead

The 2008 winner, Mokone Peter Mofokeng stood out for his commitment to go beyond the duties of the classroom to develop an ‘Alternatives to Violence’ programme to assist the youth at Motswela Secondary School (Maokeng, Kroonstad) in dealing with violence in the classroom.

One Monday morning, Mokone Peter Mofokeng was startled to hear that the previous Friday a teenage boy was severely assaulted by a teenage gang armed with knobkierries. As a result, Mofokeng partnered with a pastor from the area to develop workshops called ‘Alternatives to Violence’, to mentor the boys and provide them with the life skills and self esteem to help prevent gangsterism and violence.

Mr Mofokeng took the initiative and went for training as a workshop facilitator. He then took these skills and trained teachers at Matseripe Secondary School in Ventersberg to do the same. Together they ran workshops with 38 teenage boys and by 2008 they had 200 teenage learners and teachers who had completed the workshop.

The ‘Alternatives to Violence’ Programme still continues. The R10 000 prize money awarded by Argo for winning the Stars in Education Awards in recognition of his work went towards funding venues for future workshops.

“These young men are natural leaders. The difference is that before they were leading in gangs and now they lead in a good way,” - Mr Mofokeng.

Mr Mofokeng’s love for his work and recognition as one of our ‘Stars in Education’ encouraged him to continue the good work. In January 2012 he celebrated his 25th year in teaching and can still be found boldly leading the young men of Motswela Secondary School into a future knowing that violence isn’t the only solution. 

2009 - The Stars in Education winner shines at Education Week

The energy around the Stars in Education campaign started to grow with youth getting involved in recognising their star teachers on the Hectic 99 youth TV show, on radio and by entering on and via the Q-ONE Student Diary and ACE Matric Guide. The campaign was also extensively advertised in the National Teachers Diary, and supported by leading education NGO’s, who encouraged entries from teachers. The level of entries showed growth and the quality of the entries astounded the judging panel, which included a range of education leaders. The judges were moved to tears as they read about the work that the teachers were doing in communities far removed from their own.

In 2009 the winner of The Stars in Education Awards was recognised at a lunchtime function at Education Week held at the Vodadome in Midrand, Johannesburg, which had an audience of over 500 education leaders.  Our winner, Mologadi Priscilla Maluleke was nominated by a learner, Khomotso Marakalla, who said this of her teacher ‘Mam’ Maluleke:“She is my mother and teacher, she cares for us as OVC’s and helps us with home activities, school uniforms, food parcels, presents and more”.

Mam Maluleke trained as an HIV Care worker in 2008 and in 2009 set up the Bophelong HIV and AIDS support group. A member of the group writes “I am well because of her” and that she is a woman with “perseverance and love”. Her entry included detailed records of her many visits to dozens of orphans and vulnerable children. One report tells of her helping a child after abuse and organising papers for children so they can receive grants. Her work extends to helping children with their homework, taking them to the clinic if they are sick, providing for them through a vegetable garden, organising eye tests and requesting support from community members and local businesses.

At the luncheon event at Education Week, Mologadi Maluleke moved the audience to tears when she received her prize of R10 000 from Argo, by showing her commitment to her learners, with her promise: “I’m going to use it to bring their happiness back!”

In 2012, we caught up with ‘Mam’ Maluleke. When asked if she is still teaching, she enthusiastically answered that her project had gone from strength to strength, growing in the way community members were educated about HIV – which goes hand in hand with supporting learners orphaned as a result of HIV. The prize money went towards buying the children calculators to practice maths, educational toys, puzzles and charts and posters for the classrooms. The OVC’s after-school classroom was also equipped with ironing boards and a kettle to better care for the children in the afternoons. Most importantly, she reports that the competition made a real difference to the community’s view of the centre, who now say the children no longer feel like orphans because of the centre. The members of the community have been motivated to come and help care for the children, cleaning the centre and mending the children’s clothing.

“The children are really interested in coming every afternoon and the little ones love playing very much”, says Mologadi.

One project need Mrs Maluleke reports is equipment like sewing machines and fabric so that HIV positive people can work and be kept busy.

2010 - Taking the Stars in Education awards to the community in which the teacher works

In 2010, Argo wanted to recognise the teacher in their community, to encourage community support for teachers. Argo arranged with the school principal of New West Secondary School to create a special assembly on 5 October 2010 (World Teachers’ Day) to present the winner, Roslyn Narain, with her award for her extraordinary contribution to her learners and her community. She was nominated by a learner, Shiksha Lutchmipersadh, who wrote of how her teacher had inspired her to get involved in projects herself. She was inspired by Mrs Narain’s dedication to various projects including a centre focused on teaching elderly members of the community to read and write.

In Roslyn’s case, we saw again how a dark moment could trigger the inspiration needed for a teacher to take action. Mrs Narain was moved to ask a learner about his depression and recent suicide attempt. “I just want my father to love me” was the learner’s desperate reply. Knowing she could not answer that need, Roslyn responded by developing a programme where toys were distributed to a local hospital and she asked the boy to be Father Christmas. In giving love to others, his self esteem was boosted and a “light bulb” went on for Roslyn Narain – her life was changed as she sought to impact the lives of others in many new ways.

The project that caught Stars in Education Awards judge’s attention was RAFAL – Roslyn’s Academy for Adult Learning, an ABET project answering the desperate need for Roslyn’s elderly neighbours in her community to learn to read and write. Roslyn started out as a volunteer educator in the National Government Literacy Programme called Khar Ri Gude in 2009. She then started her own academy with the help of sponsors and community members of Phoenix in 2010. One elderly woman in her early eighties commented “because of her I can read my name for the first time” and her family commented that since she had attended the classes she was more cheerful and suffered from fewer ailments. 

2011 - Recognition from SACE and education leaders

In 2011, the winners of the Stars in Education Awards were honoured at a South African Council for Educators (SACE) Gala Event in Cape Town on 7 October. SACE sponsored the attendance of the finalists at the event and invited them to attend the SACE Teachers Roundtable where they learned about the latest trends and issues in education and networked with education leaders, to share their insights on education. A film crew were also sent to the school to film the award presentation at a special assembly, to celebrate World Teacher’s Day.

THE WINNER: Phuti Ragophala from Pula Madibogo Primary School, Mankweng, Limpopo, Itsosheng.

Project: Permaculture and OVC Care Centre, IT Teach a Teacher project
“One day around 2002 a teacher came to me and reported a girl who was shivering and faint. She had not eaten the night before. We started to take her aside and give her food before class started”. - Phuti Ragophala, her teacher and the principal of the school, describes the moment that sparked a journey into a many-faceted project including permaculture, a chicken farm and community IT classes. The project addresses the hunger and need experienced by orphans and unemployed people in her Limpopo community.

“It is often that a teacher does not recognise the needy children. These children will not speak up; we need to be watching for the signs”.

Phuti Ragophala applies her energy and ideas to answering the needs of orphans in her area “What can I say, I am a woman, it feels like these children come from my own stomach!” she says with a smile.  Phuti makes every effort to recognise the unflagging dedication of her team of teachers and community team without whom she could never have turned an ex-rubbish dump into what Phuti calls “a forest of food”.

Over the years Phuti has dedicated her time to Eco schools competitions, selecting girls for the Oprah Winfrey Academy, organising school career days, encouraging the ‘adoption’ of orphaned learners, supporting prisoner’s learning and teaching teachers in other schools about IT. Her latest focus is a project which encourages anyone with knowledge to Teach-a-Teacher about IT. This passion won her the ISPA Super Teacher of the year a week before she received Stars in Education Award and a month later was recognised by the a special award from the CPSI (Centre for Public Service Innovation) from the office of the Minister of Public Works and Administration, Roy Padayachee for Selfless Leadership and Innovative Work in the Public Sector. About her passion for IT, Phuti quotes the saying “If you want to shoot birds, shoot where they are going, not where they are”, meaning that one must work with a vision of the future and be willing to change with the times.

Though many in surrounding rural Mankweng may face desperate levels of unemployment and HIV, the overriding feeling at Pula Madibogo Primary is that of enthusiasm and hope as Phuti’s passion overflows and seeks to influence high schools and the community at large.

2012 - Sponsors give the Awards greater impact

These inspirational stories of ordinary teachers doing extraordinary work and taking the lead in making a difference in their communities have encouraged industry leaders to get involved in supporting the Stars in Education awards, as it continues to recognise how teachers inspire others. Transnet Foundation, Mindset Learn, Macmillan, Cell C, The Star and MetroFM have taken the lead in recognising the vital role that teachers play in our communities.

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