Phuti Ragophala was nominated for the international award for the way she has used her job to change the lives of her pupils and community.
Ragophala says she believes education is not only about what happens in the classroom, instead, she believes it is a tool that can be used to change a community.
Ragophala, who has been a teacher and principal for 32 years, has made it to the top 50 for the Global Teacher of 2017. The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai in March and will win $1-million (R13.7m).
Ragophala, who just retired as a principal of Pula Madibogo Primary school in Turfloop, outside Polokwane, said despite the school being in a rural area, she realised the importance of technology in teaching.
“We are not preparing learners to be South African leaders, but global leaders. So I have partnered with different organisations to ensure that our school has computers. Now our learners can connect with others from Japan, Europe and other parts of the world.”
Ragophala said just because her pupils were from impoverished backgrounds, they should not be deprived of opportunities. “It is up to the teachers to ensure that pupils are afforded the best opportunities. I am lucky that the team I work with at Pula Madibogo is willing to go the extra mile.”
When parents cannot afford to pay fees, Ragophala gives them menial jobs and pays them a stipend. “The priority is to ensure that the children get education so when they get paid, the parents pay fees.”
She said she decided to dedicate her teaching career to Mankweng Circuit Secondary Schools because if she went to a better resourced school, she would never have learnt anything. “I learnt that poor social background does not determine one’s destination. A rose can blossom in a desert.”
Though she has retired, she still continues to teach pupils in other parts of the world online. “Through Skype, I am able to teach learners from different parts of the world. I teach economics and management sciences, technology and poetry. I teach children in the refugee camps in Kenya. I may have retired but that does not mean I am not working.”
If she wins the money, she will use it to build an admin block for the school.