Teachers Can

Building a teacher-led network to realise the potential of all children in South Africa

Teachers CAN

What

The Teachers’ Change Agent Network (Teachers CAN) aims to become a teacher-led network – uniting people who believe teachers can help all learners to reach their potential.

The network 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

Who

Teachers CAN will be led by young teachers who are navigating the education system in innovative ways. However, the network also includes people who believe in the power and potential of young teachers to improve quality learning for all children in South Africa. This includes older teachers, senior management team members, government officials, civil society organisations, academics and the public at large.

Connect with Us

           

Ann Flandorp reads to children at Berea Mor Primary School in Genadendal, Western Cape. Ann received training from the Zoe-Reading Project, and resources from Nal’ibali, so that she is able to work for the South African Government’s Community Work Programme (CWP) who pays her stipend. Her job is to help children at the school who struggle with reading and to assist the teachers.

Ann Flandorp reads to children at Berea Mor Primary School in Genadendal, Western Cape. Ann received training from the Zoe-Reading Project, and resources from Nal’ibali, so that she is able to work for the South African Government’s Community Work Programme (CWP) who pays her stipend. Her job is to help children at the school who struggle with reading and to assist the teachers.

Why

Melikhaya Songca

Despite the country’s significant year-on-year investment in basic education, the learning crisis is South Africa is well documented[1]Van der Berg S., Wills G., Selkirk R., Adams C., and van Wyk C. 2019. The Cost of Repetition In South Africa: A report for the DG Murray Trust. Stellenbosch: Research on Socio-Economic Policy (RESEP).. For example, as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016 report revealed, 78% of South African Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning in any language[2]Spaull, N. 2017. The Unfolding Reading Crisis: The New PIRLS 2016 results. Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch.; and out of every 100 children who begin Grade 1, 60 will make it to Grade 12, and only 40 will actually matriculate from that cohort[3]Spaull, N. 2015. Schooling in South Africa: How low-quality education becomes a poverty trap. South African Child Gauge 2015. In De Lannoy, A., Swartz, S., Lake, L. & Smith, C. (eds). Cape Town: Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town..

As highlighted in the Human Factor’s launch issue many teachers feel demoralised and unsupported in the profession. They face a number of external factors that impact not only on their ability to teach effectively, but also on their wellbeing. Research from the Human Sciences Research Council also demonstrates that South Africa has a low retention of beginner (young) teachers, citing a lack of support for new teachers as one of the major contributing factors[4]Zuma, K., Simbayi, L.C. & Rehle, T. 2016. The health of educators in public schools in South Africa 2016. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.

In addition, teachers’ identity often sits between that of worker and professional. Often treated as workers on a policy level, teachers are frequently tasked with executing an inflexible curriculum for targeted outcomes[5]Kimathi F. 2018. Advancing Professional Teaching in South Africa: Lessons Learnt from Policy Frameworks That Have Regulated Teachers’ Work. Johannesburg: University of Witwatersrand.. There is little freedom, however, for teachers to innovate when it comes to their teaching practice, or to challenge national decisions based on their experiences in the classroom.

When teachers 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, 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 the post-apartheid education system.

Ann moved to Genadendal from Cape Town after the lease for the building where her husband’s motorbike repair shop was based was not renewed. He now works as a driver in the city and Ann lives in Genadendal with their three children. The fresh air in the town is better for one of her children, who has a heart condition. Ann is so good at her job that she is likely to be employed as a teaching assistant by the school.

Ann moved to Genadendal from Cape Town after the lease for the building where her husband’s motorbike repair shop was based was not renewed. He now works as a driver in the city and Ann lives in Genadendal with their three children. The fresh air in the town is better for one of her children, who has a heart condition. Ann is so good at her job that she is likely to be employed as a teaching assistant by the school.

The Human Factor

Read more:

There are only two ways to improve the world – through technology and through behaviour change. DGMT’s annual publication the Human Factor, focuses on the latter, stimulating important conversations by giving facts, but most importantly, by sharing the voices of people. Through a collection of investigative and analysis pieces, images, essays and infographics, the launch edition of the Human Factor looked at South Africa’s education system from the perspective of teachers – taking readers on a journey into some of the country’s most impoverished classrooms to see what it’s really like to be a teacher in SA today.
Read it here.

How

Teachers CAN taps into young teachers’ motivation to enable children to reach their full potential, and is a network led by young, change agent, teachers.

At the heart of this mission is the Teachers CAN Manifesto, which unites young teachers around five core values, namely that teachers are able to:

  • Support learners to reach their potential in all aspects of their lives
  • Engage as equals and for equality in schools
  • Innovate and own school-wide teaching practices
  • Play an active role in school structures
  • Connect to a wider world of social change

The network is built on an evidence-based national public advocacy and a communications campaign as well as a national fellowship for young teachers.

Pumeza Ngomela, singing with children at Jongikwezi School in Amajingqui, Eastern Cape. Pumeza leads the Public School Operating Partnerships (PSOPS) and Axium Education project in the area with a team of other dedicated facilitators.

Pumeza Ngomela, singing with children at Jongikwezi School in Amajingqui, Eastern Cape. Pumeza leads the Public School Operating Partnerships (PSOPS) and Axium Education project in the area with a team of other dedicated facilitators.

Public Advocacy and Communication Campaign

Co-created by the network of young teacher change agents and allies, the public advocacy and communication campaign will champion teachers’ issues at public and policy level, and work towards the realisation of the Teachers CAN Manifesto for all young teachers.

Crucial to this campaign will be galvanising the network around specific issues facing young teachers. The communication arm of the campaign will be centred on the power of storytelling. Written, spoken and audio-visual media content will tell the stories of young teachers living out the Teachers CAN Manifesto, their successes as well as their challenges. This will be supported by rigorously researched evidence at a national level.

By telling these stories – both in print and digitally, on radio and on TV – the media will be harnessed as a vehicle for impactful change, helping to grow the network and making the case for young teachers, their agency and their power to advocate for sustainable policy change.

The ultimate aim of the public policy and communication campaign is to catalyse the network of teachers and their allies to help drive quality education for all learners by advocating for government policies that support the Teachers CAN Manifesto.  

Teachers CAN Fellowship

Aphiwe Mtyobile

Teachers CAN recognises the steep learning curve and intensity of the first year of teaching. Add to this challenging working conditions such as overcrowded classrooms, inadequate incentives and policy overload[6]Mphalala, M., Mpofu, N. 2019. South Africa must up its game and produce more teachers. Bloemfontein: University of the Free State., the pressure to conform to conventional teaching norms can quickly become internalised.

To counter this, Teachers CAN seeks to foster new ways for teachers to see themselves as well as their role in the education system, developing their individual as well as collective identities as change agents within this system.

In its first year, the Teachers CAN fellowship will focus on 30 young teachers, based anywhere in South Africa, who are between the ages of 23 and 35, and have one to five years of teaching experience. The fellowship will consist of full-day immersion workshops of five days each, taking place during the March, June and October public school holidays in 2021[7]With possible amendment should the school calendar change..

The immersion workshops will help the young teachers develop a common identity[8]Palmer, P.J. 1998. The Heart of a Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. rooted in professionalism, creativity and disruption of the status quo. The fellowship seeks to provide fellows with a stimulating and nurturing environment rooted in the belief that each one of them has the potential to make a difference in the education system.

Whilst the duration of the Teachers CAN fellowship has been designed as a one-year programme, alumni will remain key anchors of the network.

FAQs

Read More

1. Read more about The Zero Dropout Campaign here. Published by The Zero Dropout Campaign, 2020.
2. Read Schools urgently need young, committed teachers by Professor Michael le Cordeur here. Published by the Maverick Citizen, 2020.
3. Read Chronicles of Young South African Teachers (The Interview Series) here. Published by News 24, 2016.

Contact Teachers CAN: info@teacherscan.org.za

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