Accelerate learning for learners failed by the system

Teachers CAN

This is a teacher-led network working towards realising the potential of all children in South Africa through a fellowship programme.
It aims to:

  • Build a common professional vision and purpose for young teachers and their allies through the Teachers CAN Manifesto.
  • Develop the individual and collective agency of young teachers as agents of change in South Africa.
  • Facilitate an evidence-based public advocacy campaign to shed light on the perceptions and experiences of young teachers.

Teachers Can Fellowship immersion in December 2022.

The disconnect

This explains why the project exists

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Many teachers face several external factors that impact not only their ability to teach effectively but also their wellbeing. As a consequence, they can feel demoralised and unsupported in the profession.

Research1Zuma, K., Simbayi, L.C., Rehle, T., Mbelle, N., Zungu, N.P., Mthembu, J., North, A., Van Zyl, J., Jooste, S., Moyo, S., Wabiri, N., Maduna, V., Mabaso, M., Naidoo, I., Chasela, C., Chikovore, J. & Educator Survey II, Study Team (2016) The health of educators in public schools in South Africa 2016. (Commissioned by the Department of Basic Education, June). Access here: by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) demonstrates that South Africa has a low retention of young teachers, citing a lack of support for new teachers as one of the major contributing factors. In addition, they are frequently tasked with executing an inflexible curriculum for targeted outcomes and there is little freedom for teachers to innovate when it comes to teaching practices, or to challenge national decisions based on their experiences in the classroom. When they feel unsupported and overlooked, it narrows their sense of agency – to the detriment of the entire education system.

For quality education to occur in South Africa, teachers need to appreciate the central role they play in ensuring quality learning. They need to feel empowered to navigate the education system and its structures, and have the professional freedom and responsibility to innovate. This is the only way we will address the systemic challenges that plague our post-apartheid education system.


The majority of South Africans are stuck in an inequality trap with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. Most are stuck in intergenerational loops of exclusion with few chances to escape. Breaking this cycle requires a fundamental change in life trajectories, starting in the womb.

Think of a Möbius strip – just one twist in the circle allows you to trace a completely different pattern. Instead of being stuck on the inside of a loop, you emerge on the outside. In the same way, escaping the inequality trap requires a fundamental twist to set South Africa on a new path.

The twist in thinking

This explains how the project approaches problems

The Teachers CAN Fellowship aims to bring together young teachers who are passionate and committed to building an education sector in which every child in South Africa receives a quality education. Quality education can be defined as an experience that enables each learner to succeed in school and provides the basis for them to develop to their highest potential.

The Teachers CAN Fellowship is committed to centering teachers and positioning them as a powerful force for change.

The Fellowship is designed around the following components:

  • Immersions: The Fellowship programme is centered on three immersions which take place over 12 months. The goal of the immersions is for young teachers to identify as agents of change who will drive the vision of the Fellowship. 
  • Peer learning and support: This is an opportunity for Fellows to grow in their profession through sharing experiences and collaborating towards achieving better outcomes.
  • Teachers CAN Network: This network is aimed at gathering a community of education change agents who are committed to embracing the Teachers CAN Manifesto. The network is driven by the Teachers CAN Fellows, and it is centered around how we can make the Teachers CAN Manifesto come alive in every school in South Africa.

The trajectory change

This explains what the project is doing to make a difference

The Teachers CAN Fellowship is designed to enable young teachers to develop a common identity rooted in professionalism, creativity and a desire to disrupt the status quo for the benefit of all learners. The Fellows can expect a challenging and nurturing environment based on the belief that each of them has the potential to transform the education system.

The Fellowship commenced in 2021 with its first cohort and it has been growing ever since. 


Learn more on the Teachers Can website: 

Trying to change life trajectories is ambitious and profound. It requires us to radically influence the lives of individuals and to be part of changing the circumstances in which they live.

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