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:
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.
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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.
Despite the country’s significant year-on-year investment in basic education, the learning crisis is South Africa is well documentedVan 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 languageSpaull, 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 cohortSpaull, 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 factorsZuma, 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 outcomesKimathi 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.
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.
Teachers CAN plans to tap into young teachers’ motivation to enable children to reach their full potential, and become a network led by young, transformative 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:
The network will be built on an evidence-based national public advocacy and 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.
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.
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.
|⇧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).|
|⇧2||Spaull, N. 2017. The Unfolding Reading Crisis: The New PIRLS 2016 results. Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch.|
|⇧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.|
|⇧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.|
|⇧5||Kimathi F. 2018. Advancing Professional Teaching in South Africa: Lessons Learnt from Policy Frameworks That Have Regulated Teachers’ Work. Johannesburg: University of Witwatersrand.|
|⇧6||Mphalala, M., Mpofu, N. 2019. South Africa must up its game and produce more teachers. Bloemfontein: University of the Free State.|
|⇧7||With possible amendment should the school calendar change.|
|⇧8||Palmer, P.J. 1998. The Heart of a Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.|