Leadership and education non-profit, Symphonia for South Africa (SSA), joins millions of teachers globally in celebrating the UNESCO-declared World Teacher’s Day on 5 October, under the theme Leading in crisis, reimagining the future. SSA takes this opportunity to draw attention to the integral role teachers play in providing a quality education to children, and reflect on what more needs to be done to adequately invest in and assist teachers in this monumental task.
‘’Teachers are our nation builders. They are uniquely positioned to contribute to stronger and better functioning societies that produce well-educated citizens and a well-trained workforce, and yet far too many teachers are still undervalued and disempowered” says Dorcas Dube, Marketing and Communications Manager for SSA.
‘’Their role is especially significant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges faced by already over-extended education systems have been exacerbated by the crisis. We’ve seen teachers make personal sacrifices to ensure that teaching and learning continues, with many going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure learners and their families were fed while schools were shut. In light of this, we call on all active citizens, communities, business, government and civil society to ramp up their support for education, the teaching profession and organisations dedicated to uplifting teachers,’’ Dube adds.
Since 2011, SSA’s flagship programme, Partners for Possibility(PfP), has committed to supporting the transformation of education in South Africa. The PfP education intervention brings together skilled business leaders and school principals of under resourced schools in 12-month programme of leadership development for both partners. Together, the partnership receives world class leadership training and the support of similar partnerships, while they apply their new skills and existing abilities and tap into their networks to tackle the unique challenges faced by schools.
SSA believes empowering and upskilling principals is key in addressing the challenges faced by teachers. ‘’School principals hold a powerful leadership role in helping to create conditions for effective teaching and learning. They influence the motivations and capacities of teachers and the environment and climate that they work in, which in turn shapes classroom practice and learning outcomes. When principals attain the leadership competencies, confidence and energy to lead, the benefits ripple out to the teaching staff: they become re-energised, and their morale is significantly boosted,’’ says Dube.
Many principals who have participated on the PfP programme report that their teachers feel a greater sense of ownership and empowerment over important school matters because teachers become proactively involved in decision making. Teacher absenteeism, a scourge plaguing many under resourced schools, has also reduced at many schools, which has ultimately increased the exposure of students to learning opportunities. ‘’Most teachers have sought out the profession because they wanted to make a difference. A teacher’s job satisfaction comes from seeing a child learn and grow. Strong principals make such a big impact on schools because they support teachers and allow them to perform in the classroom,’’ Dube mentions.
For the last nine years, SSA has also hosted regular School Leadership Forums, which offer practical knowledge and skills with the aim of the improving leadership in education. The forum is unique in that it touches more than just the principal – teachers, the school management team and school governing body are all invited and engaged on various topics pertaining to school life. ‘’This is yet another way Symphonia for South Africa, with the generous sponsorship of loyalty rewards and fundraising programme MySchool, MyVillage MyPlanet, upskills teachers by exposing them to new ideas and practices and inspiring them to try something different. They learn from each other, extend their networks and receive guidance on education-related matters in a professional but relaxed environment,’’ says Dube.
With the spotlight firmly on the plight of teachers and the myriad of challenges they face, SSA hopes that many more South Africans will mobilise around the issues affecting teachers, and the overarching goal of inclusive, quality education for all. ‘’Those who care about education and the future of South Africa are best positioned to make a tangible difference. Now is the time to amplify our efforts to ensure that teachers feel supported in every school and in every community – for the benefit of every child,’’ Dube concludes.