Thembela Mbanjwa sanitising Grade 6 pupils in Inkanini Primary School. Teachers around world are celebrated for the work they do despite challenges like the coronavirus crisis this year. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)
Thembela Mbanjwa sanitising Grade 6 pupils in Inkanini Primary School. Teachers around world are celebrated for the work they do despite challenges like the coronavirus crisis this year. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

World Teachers’ Day salutes the hard work of selfless educators

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Oct 5, 2020

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Cape Town - Today is World Teachers’ Day.

Teachers around world are celebrated for the work they do despite challenges like the coronavirus crisis this year.

The day will be celebrated under the theme “Teachers: leading in crisis, re-imagining the future” with teacher unions pointing out that teachers were faced with a number of challenges including low payment, unsafe working conditions, lack of adequate support and some having succumbed.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said since the pandemic started, it has lost 43 staff due to Covid-19.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer paid tribute to those teachers, and offered condolences to their families.

“We saw some incredible examples of ingenuity and perseverance during lockdown, as teachers turned to everyday apps and programmes to ensure that learning continued during the long school closure.

"We are proud of the way that so many of our teachers stepped up and set the example for our learners. The attitude of our teachers and other staff during the phasing in process made all the difference in calming our learners’ nerves and helping them to adjust to the ‘new normal’ of attending school during the Covid-19 pandemic,“ Schäfer said.

“We know the long school closures have a wide range of negative impacts on learners, in terms of their education, health and safety, as well as their future circumstances.

“I would like to personally thank and pay tribute to all of those teachers who set aside their own understandable fears and put the interests of our learners first as we re-opened schools in the safest way possible. These teachers have demonstrated what it means for teaching to be a calling rather than just a job.“

Head of education Brian Schreuder said they have overcome so much in the past seven months and that those colleagues that have succumbed or lost their loved ones must be remembered.

“We need to support each other in the months ahead. Staff can also seek the services of our Employee Health and Wellness Programme (toll-free number 0800 111 011) for counselling support and assistance.”

Unesco said: “The issue of teacher leadership in relation to crisis responses is not just timely, but critical in terms of the contributions teachers have made to provide remote learning, support vulnerable populations, reopen schools, and ensure that learning gaps have been mitigated.”

It said the discussions surrounding World Teachers’ Day would address the role of teachers in building resilience and shaping the future of education and the teaching profession.

National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said teachers’ salaries should reflect the importance to society of the teaching function and compared favourably with salaries paid in other occupations.

Manuel said school buildings should also be safe and school premises should be maintained so as not to compromise the health and safety of teachers and learners.

The Progressive Organisation Formation interim secretary Brian Isaacs, said the main concern in South Africa was for every two primary schools there was only one high school to accommodate learners.“This means that 50% of learners in Grade 7 will never see the inside of a high school.”

Khalid Sayed, ANC provincial spokesperson on education, said the party was concerned that too many learners and teachers were still disadvantaged due to the stark inequality of the “old racist” past.

Sayed said the party called on all levels of education authorities to make it a priority to bring all children meaningful, equal and quality education – with no unfair discriminatory disadvantage to those of the poorest areas.

“Teachers need a lot of training with modern technology and alternative or innovative teaching as Covid-19 changed their environment… They have to assist our youth with the fourth industrial revolution.”

Cape Argus

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