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World Teachers’ Day 2020: Celebrating the teaching profession and amplifying the voices of teachers, who are central to the efforts in achieving global education targets

Leadership and education non-profit, Symphonia for South Africa (SSA) joined millions of teachers around the world in celebrating the UNESCO-declared World Teachers’ Day on 5 October, under the theme Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.

SSA took the opportunity to draw attention to the pivotal role teachers play in providing quality education and reflected on what more needs to be done to adequately develop teachers and assist them in their 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 challengesfaced byalready overextended education systems have beenexacerbated 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 have called 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 programme brings together principals of under-resourced with experienced business leaders in a 12-month process of leadership development for both partners. The partners receive world-class leadership training and the support of peers in similar partnerships. At the same time, they apply new skills along with existing expertise and tap into their networks to tackle the unique challenges in their 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 participate in the PfP programme report that their teachers feel a greater sense of ownership and empowerment over important school matters through becoming proactively involved in decision-making. Teacher absenteeism, which tends to be frequent in under-resourced schools, has also decreased at many PfP schools, and this has ultimately increased students’ exposure 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,’’ remarks Dube.

For the last nine years, SSA has also hosted regular School Leadership Forums, which aims to strengthen education leadership by sharing knowledge and developing practical skills. The forum is unique in that it touches more than just the principal – teachers and members of school management teams and school governing bodies are all invited and engaged on various topics about school life.

‘’This is yet another way that Symphonia for South Africa, with the generous support of MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, upskills educators by exposing them to new ideas and practices and inspires 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.

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 redouble our efforts to ensure that teachers feel supported in every school and in every community – for the benefit of every child,’’ Dube concludes.