Thursday, 19 September 2019

Community Support for Amathole Teacher Futures School

Elukhanyisweni Secondary School, situated in the Amathole District of the Eastern Cape, is one of the schools participating in the Commonwealth of Learning Teacher Futures programme. The programme aims to support teachers in developing digital skills and creating communities of practice so that they can provide better teaching and learning opportunities for rural learners.

Whilst Elukhanyisweni had computers and received a donation of tablets from MTN, the school has been burgled a number of times and a lot of the digital tools have been stolen.  At the Change Leadership for Digital Learning course, facilitated by SchoolNet SA, Mr Ayanda Oliphant, principal of the school and Ms NomaLungisa Maxengana, Head of Department reported that the burglaries have been worrying and demotivating for both teachers and learners. They were advised that getting the support of the community for the school's vision may help to keep the school's equipment safe.

On 16 September 2019, Mr Oliphant and Ms Maxengana attended a community executive meeting and appealed for community assistance in preventing burglaries at their school. In a moving speech (that can be viewed here) Nomalungisa explained that the school aims to produce learners who are competent globally, and learners who will not look down upon themselves because they are products of a village school. She noted that "we don’t wish our learners to have an inferiority complex when among their Johannesburg and American counterparts."

Maxengana informed the meeting about the Teacher Futures programme facilitated by SchoolNet explaining that "SchoolNet started by training a few teachers in our school, then we will train our colleagues, so that at the end of the day we all teach the modern way, infusing technology in our teaching." The community agreed with the vision shared by Maxengana that "teaching with technology will not only benefit learners, but the whole Msobomvu community will be enlightened". 

After getting the buy-in of the group the school leaders said that the success of the programme would require community cooperation to make sure that the sponsored technology is valued and protected for the whole school community to benefit. The community was deeply moved by her speech and unanimously voiced their willingness to prioritize ensuring the security of the school. Furthermore, the provincial Department of Education plans to fence the school.

Hlengiwe Mfeka, who manages the Teacher Future programme for SchoolNet SA, says that Mr Oliphant and Ms Nomalungisa from Elukhanyisweni Secondary school have consistently attended all scheduled workshops. They were one of the first schools to submit the required documents to earn various badges and they try their best to implement what's been learnt in the workshops. These school leaders also share their best practices and learnings with the rest of the Teacher Futures Community of Practice via the project WhatsApp group. We are hopeful that now that the community knows more about the vision of the school that they will help to protect the digital tools so that they can be fully used to benefit teaching and learning. 

Commonwealth of Learning Teacher Futures: Success Stories from Amathole

SchoolNet SA has been working with teachers and school leaders from ten schools in the Amathole District in the Eastern Cape as part of the Commonwealth of Learning Teacher Futures programme. Teacher Futures strives to develop teaching and learning communities of practice (COP) for the purpose of scaling up in-service teachers' digital knowledge and skills and to assist them in providing quality and sustainable education in the Eastern Cape schools.

With these goal in mind, teachers from the participating schools have attended the following professional development workshops offered by SchoolNet SA facilitators:

  • Learning Design Workshop
  • Change Leadership for Digital Learning
  • Digital Literacy and Initiating Community of Practice
  • Using Digital Resources in the Classroom

We were delighted to hear from Phelela Mqhiki, a teacher from Nzululwazi High School and Charmaine Nel, a Head of Department from Ntabenkonyana High School who consistently attended the workshops who shared some of their experiences and the benefits of participating in the Teacher Futures project. (Please click on the teacher's names to see the videos that they shared).

Community of Practice at Ntabenkonyana

Charmaine reported that after ten teachers from her school attended the Digital Literacy workshop she saw a lot of changes, noting, that as HODs "we expect teachers to submit their work typed.... we expect them to be more professional. And I must admit that now they are very professional". 

The Change Leadership course has also bought about changes such as "the school's new vision also includes technology now whereas in the past it was silent when it comes to technology". Charmaine notes that,  "when it comes to lesson assessment and lesson planning there is a big change. Because in lesson plans we now incorporate visuals that we download from different apps. The lesson becomes more stimulating and the learners enjoy them more." 

Better digital literacy skills have also made it easier for teachers to join and actively participate in their community of practice. Charmaine says that "when it comes to sharing information we do that with some teachers in the neighborhood. Almost all of us have laptops so it becomes easy to share, comment and edit information that you have presented to them. That is also quite exciting. You don't have to travel to the next school to get information - we just share that on our laptops. Even when it comes to saving work. It doesn't get lost easily now that we are using Google Drive." 

Nzululwazi prepares for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Phelela Mqhiki says that the most valuable and positive workshop for her was Using Digital Resources in the Classroom course, as she notes that "in the Eastern Cape we are very rural and we have been using chalk in our classrooms". She said that the workshop helped her and her colleagues to see how the computers can be used in their classrooms and how to go about introducing learners to the technology. Phelela believes that the workshops will help them to be ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. She regards herself as fortunate among teachers in the Eastern Cape because now her classroom performance is improved and her learners are also doing better.  

As the Teacher Futures project continues we look forward to hearing more about how teachers and school leaders are applying what they are learning to developing their community of practice and sharing more ideas and resources for improving teaching and learning at the participating schools.