10 March 2015
South Africa’s outstanding teachers who go beyond the call of duty have been honoured at the annual National Teaching Awards at a glittering event hosted by the Department of Basic Education at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg on Saturday evening.
The awards, which recognise excellence and the outstanding contribution of teachers in enhancing the quality of teaching, were attended by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and other Education MECs.
Ramaphosa, who delivered the keynote address, congratulated all the winners, whom he described as “the ambassadors of excellence in education”.
“Teachers are not just passionate about teaching. I believe that they are driven by a deep sense of justice and care for others. They empower, mentor, nurture, and they give hope to the children of our country. They are our nation’s pride,” he said.
He said the country’s teachers should look to teachers of past generations – like those of Zachariah Keodirelegang (ZK) Mathews, Albert Luthuli, Es’kia Mphahlele and Charlotte Maxeke – for inspiration and ensuring that the doors of education and culture in the country remain open.
The nominees were winners from the provincial leg of the competition, held in all nine provinces. The teachers were originally nominated by their schools in categories aimed at recognising excellence in teaching or leadership, the use of information communication technology, as well as teaching in special needs schools.
Kader Asmal award
Thembisile Mdlalose from Thembimfundo Special School in KwaZulu-Natal outclassed her peers by scooping the Kader Asmal award. This award seeks to recognise educators who, in their work, demonstrate the key values that were a hallmark of Professor Kader Asmal’s leadership – a demanding educational activist who leads by example, one who has a feel for social justice and takes stands on issues – popular or unpopular – as well as one who demonstrates intellectual tenacity and creativity.
Mdlalose developed her passion for teaching from 1987. In 1999, she went on to establish Thembimfundo Special School using her own money to pay the staff and run the hostel. The school is home to 35 homeless children and adults with disabilities, which the department now funds.
“Working in such a specialised field is not always easy but it’s worthwhile. It’s always been in me to be a teacher, therapist, counsellor and mother. Through my work, I am able to change the lives of those who otherwise might have been overlooked in the system,” said Mdlalose.
Lifetime Achievement award
Ganasen Reddy, the principal of Glenhaven Secondary School in KwaZulu- Natal, won the Lifetime Achievement award. A science teacher, Reddy has been in the teaching profession for 32 years.
He has managed to turn the school into a model school by introducing morning and weekend classes while embracing technology, which led to the drastic turnaround in the school’s results. “I aim to go beyond what is considered the norm. I believe that every child is a top achiever,” he said.
Special Presidential award
The Special Presidential Award was won by Sibusiso Bhengu for his contribution to education. Bhengu became South Africa’s first black vice-chancellor of a South African university when he was made head of Fort Hare University in 1991. He was appointed as Minister of Education in 1999.
Investment in education, Ramaphosa said, produced the greatest yield for any society. “Investing in the education of our children is the best investment that any family, nation and country can ever make. It builds future generations of citizens equal not only in rights but also in access to opportunities.
“We need a generation that is equipped to build a better society that is characterised by respect and generosity. That is why teachers hold the key to the nation’s future,” he said.
For the younger generation to succeed, Ramaphosa said South Africa needed “teachers that are confident in their own abilities and are eager to impart the knowledge and experience that they have. We need teachers to go to work with a mission, teachers who are filled in their hearts with a great mission of improving the South African child.”
However, good teachers alone were not enough. The country also needed good schools and a supporting education system. “Teaching and learning materials need to be appropriate and readily available to all,” Ramaphosa said, reiterating that teachers needed to be in school and in class on time.
Ramaphosa said the National Development Plan included a focus on education, recognising the need to improve the quality of education, skills and teacher training, as well as the development of teachers who are already in service, while also addressing issues such as teacher remuneration.
Motshekga congratulated the teachers for a job well done: “We are here to recognise and honour our selfless, dedicated and caring teachers for their efforts in turning each learner into a leader of the future, a true role player in the local and global economy.”
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Teaching is not an easy task. It is not an easy responsibility but it’s one of those noble tasks that enables you to interact with young people. It is special opportunity to mould the greatest asset of the nation – our children.”
The winners in the top eight categories won new cars. Other prizes included cash prizes, cell phones and double return airline tickets to any domestic destination.