The Magazine for South African Teachers - Third Term 2020 - Volume 3 Issue 3
Safe Schools Creating Physical and Emotional Safe Spaces
In this issue Editor’s letter 07 Racism in South African schools, a thing of the past? 08 Tackling racism in South African schools 11 Teachers feel excluded from South Africa’s school by race and culture 16 Racism is still rife in South Africa’s school 18 An anti-racism reading list 21 Shifting perceptions through schools to combat Covid-19 23 Wellbeing for tired teachers 25 Teaching at home and at school 28 No child left behind 32 Choice boards 35 Private, public and civil society partnerships are key to mitigating the 39 impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the schooling system Understanding anxiety levels in children during this time 42 Playing safe at ECD centres 44
Tackling racism in South African schools, Page 11
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Safe schools – not just about Covid-19 The focus on re-opening schools safely has seemingly overshadowed the need for us to consider the emotional wellbeing of our learners and colleagues. Teachers are valued, now more than ever – yet teachers are also being retrenched, SGB teachers aren’t receiving salaries, and some schools are seeing high infection rates. Much has been done to ensure that our schools are safe spaces for learning. Revised timetables, trimmed content and emergency catch-up plans have been put in place. Sanitiser and soap have been stockpiled, and students have been briefed on the new protocols. Notably, while some schools have rushed to ready themselves and have received learners back with open arms (at a distance), others have struggled to get the basics delivered from the DBE. The effort that has been put in must not be downplayed, but neither should the remaining challenges and concerns. While schools were getting their physical environments ready, South African youth have used social media to amplify their voices, influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. They are speaking out about the prejudice they’ve experienced in our schools. Alarmingly, this prejudice – from teachers as well as fellow students – continues decades after SA schools have supposedly been “transformed”. In many schools, where black, Indian and coloured learners are the minority, or where the staff don’t represent the demographics of the school, there are learners who still feel disrespected, unwelcome, unsafe. Via social media, current and past learners across the country have described how they’ve been treated – from being teased about appearances to not being allowed to speak home languages at school. There are teachers who have not been willing to learn African names, teachers referring to apartheid as a conspiracy theory, teachers who have ridiculed policies that aim to uplift the previously disadvantaged in South Africa, and teachers who’ve turned a blind eye to white students’ blatant racism against their classmates. Though racism is the main theme, the hundreds of stories shared on social media show that learners continue to be discriminated against on the basis of religion, gender, and sexual orientation too. The South African Constitution (Act 108 of 1996) is founded on the values of human dignity, the
achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms (Section 1a). As we nurture the next generation, it is a teacher’s responsibility to implement these values – in the classroom, on the sports field, and in our own hearts – so that all learners are able to reach their full potential. Any teacher who’s had to teach Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to their pupils will know that we all need to feel safe and secure before we can achieve our best. A school that does not ensure emotional security, foster connection, build self-esteem, and ensure respect and recognition is letting young people down in a huge way. Schools, and teachers, must make every effort to create safe spaces for all of our learners – whether by mitigating the spread of Covid-19 or by halting prejudice. Teachers this year have had to adapt and work even harder than before to give our students the best chance in the current circumstances. I call on you to extend this endeavour to squashing discrimination too. A school policy is not enough. Real, meaningful change starts with taking a hard and uncomfortable look at our own practices as teachers. I encourage you to get a cup of tea, take some deep breaths, and read through the posts on the Instagram page You Silence We Amplify with the intention of questioning your own biases. How do you speak about race in your class? Are you always respectful of other religions? Is your staff diverse? Do you understand LGBTQ+ rights? Does your school value and promote languages other than English and Afrikaans? We all have one teacher who we remember fondly from our own schooldays. Those who’ve had a negative impact on our schooling experience are also always remembered. In the words of the legendary Rita Pierson: “Kids don't learn from people they don't like.” Which type of teacher will you be for your students? Teacha! Magazine is a publication for teachers, by teachers and we need your help to keep it going with fresh ideas, content and inspiration for South African teachers. Please send your contributions, suggestions and letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Racism in South African schools, a thing of the past? “You speak so well for a black girl, Mbali!” “You take isiZulu? I would have expected an academic like yourself to rather choose Afrikaans!” “Don’t forget your true people Mbali, you are giving me serious coconut vibes chommie.” “Swimming? Come on Mbalz, why don’t you try netball? It’s more in your forte.” It has been a staggering 15749 days since students marched for an education that strived to elevate them in all aspects of being; irrespective of their race. Thinking back to the many revolutionists who fought to enable me the opportunities which I 8 | Teacha! Magazine
eagerly snatch today, it appears that their efforts may have been for nothing as racism continues to pollute classrooms all over our country. Visionaries imagined that classes where people of all races could be educated together would eliminate prejudice towards each other, but the present day South African education system has truly proven otherwise. A system which is extremely boastful about its diversity but is still a slave at the mercy of those with racial intolerance; a true paradoxical state where racism in schools is slowly becoming as prominent as a teacher’s red pen on a marked test. Bullets were fired. Students were killed. New laws
were established. History was written. A country transformed – or so we thought. Growing up, I believed that the idiom “birds of the same feather flock together” was limited to the phylum which soar the skies, but the harsh actuality is that the latter is applicable to students as people of the same race tend to gravitate towards each other at school. Considering how as human beings, we choose to surround ourselves with those who share the same language and culture as us, this truth appears justifiable. Though appearing justifiable, the fact of the matter is that the results of this one component of our break-time buddies continue to hold us back as a community. Racism in schools can be compared to a steadily growing cancer tumor; ignorable in the beginning yet destructive in the most internal ways.
"Association by skin color creates exclusivity in our schools and limits us to mainly interacting with only our racial groups- causing students to miss so many opportunities to engage with those who differ from them and robbing them of the chances to perceive their classmates beyond the stereotypes." Having changed learning centres several times during my schooling career, I have come to the sorrowful conclusion that nothing makes trying to settle into a new school environment harder than being discriminated against. As a new student, the teacher had assigned me a buddy named Kelly who I was meant to shadow for my first week, due to our similar subjects. As one would expect, this resulted in me socializing with her clique more often than the other students. Bundled with my unconventional accent, I quickly developed the image of being a ‘stuck-up coconut’, which is a derogatory term used to describe black students who do not conform to stereotypical behavior and whose cliques consist mainly of white people. The basis of this belief of being “brown on the outside and white on the inside”, is that people who seek to break out of the usual race-based friendship circles see themselves as having more societal value than those of the same
ethnic group. It stems from the stigma that people of color discard parts of who they are to fit into the desirable margins within our schools, predominately a more “whitewashed” approach to who they really are. No words could ever accurately depict the pain I experienced during every Zulu lesson that term where I was ostracized and ridiculed, despite never once claiming to be superior to my peers or trying to resign my true identity for a more Westernized one. NginumZulu phaqa, ungangisoli. Such a belief continues to terrorize students all over the country, as evident with the death of UCT student turned professor, Bongani Mayosi, who committed suicide as a result of being labelled the above and outcast for having opinions which differed from the general consensus of black people; as if we are unable to formulate individual perceptions. One would expect that being educated in amazing institutions which have developed facilities and opportunities for all students would lead to breakthroughs in various fields but that is simply not the case. My parents had always taught me to be ambitious and perhaps that is what caused me to enter the interhouse swimming gala when I was in the ninth grade. Instead of the excitement which I had anticipated to receive from my classmates, no one could have ever prepared me for the series of hurtful and embarrassing comments which were spewed at me. Jokes about how black people can’t swim and how I would inevitably drown filled the corridors for days leading up to the event and for the first time, being the subject of attention felt absolutely horrible. The long-anticipated day finally graced us with its presence and my classmates came out in their multitudes to witness my 100m freestyle. To make a long story short, I did end up losing the race and needed help getting out of the pool but what many did not realize is that it was not because of my skin color but rather my unfitness as a swimmer. Students all over the country continue to be victims of marginalization and restricted by what is believed that we can and cannot do, all thanks to stereotypes and untruthful prejudices. This is not only applicable to Teacha! Magazine | 9
people of color as I have also witnessed my lighter peers being turned down for specific opportunities such as athletics and cultural activities all because it was believed that it would not be fitting of people of their caliber to participate in those events. Imagine how many more Einsteins, Semenyas, Chad Le Clos’ and Hamilton Nakis would be developed from our education system if students’ abilities and capacities for success were no longer limited and diminished by the stigmas which state otherwise? As previously mentioned, a big debate that I have found myself within every single year is the question of why as a topnotch academic, I chose isiZulu instead of Afrikaans as my First Additional Language. Lazy. Inactive. Indolent. These are all the words which I have been called as a result of this. Racism in South African schools is yet again evident in the prioritization of specific activities, subjects and cultures and the negligence of others. Having done isiZulu for the past 5 years at different schools, the common factor is how it is simply not prioritized or taken seriously in comparison to Afrikaans or English. Subjects such as Physical Sciences and Mathematics are glorified over subjects such as Agriculture or Tourism due to how they exhibit more of a Westernized approach to education as opposed to the organic African studies which remind us of home. By encouraging
a specific line of thinking and discarding another, we are shown as students that superiority still exists and that perhaps what makes us proud citizens of this country is not worthy of recognition or valid. It is disheartening to see students lose their passion and parts of who they are all thanks to the education system subconsciously showing them that what may be cherished by one ethnicity of people will never be seen as important or applause worthy as that which is cherished by another. It’s not just cutting the costs but also cutting the dreams and making students doubt the value of their futures. Ahmed Kathrada wisely stated that “The hardest thing to open is a closed mind.” Ignorance will never become diminished by acting as if the above problems do not exist but will come from the intermingling of students from all different walks of life, because we are people first before we are our races. In spite of all of the biases and discrimination which torment our schools, I remain optimistic for the unprejudiced treatment that students in our country will receive and lavish on each other; irrespective of skin color. Sticks and stones may break our bones but it is the words and kindness which we as South African students need to exhibit which will heal them and finally bring about the change that those who came before died to make a reality.
Author: Mbalenhle Shandu This was one of the 2019 winning essays from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s Youth Essay Writing Competition Against Racism. This article was originally published by The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
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Tackling racism in South African schools
On 16 June every year, South Africa remembers the high school learners in Soweto who faced off against the apartheid security forces to demand that they be taught in their mother tongue. Twenty-six years into democracy, some schooling practices in South Africa still carry a "subtle racism" that discriminates against black learners. Mduduzi Qwabe and Mark Potterton offer practical suggestions of how schools can embrace diversity and promote true racial integration. Structural racism and white privilege remain real concerns in the world and in South Africa.
Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America is a brutally honest book is about 10 American children and teenagers killed by guns in a 24-hour time-span. Younge investigates how the deaths are normal by American standards in that none made national news, but not normal by commonsense standards. In it, the father of Samuel Brightmon, - one of the boys killed in gun violence - talks about how little the rest of America cares about the death of children like his son: “When it’s a black child shot, it’s a flash,” he says. Llike a flash of lightning. you see it and you’ll be like, was that lightning? That's how it is when a black child gets murdered or
gets killed. No big news… in the end result, you are still living in a white world. And we’re still thought of as less than. And basically, they’re saying we don’t matter. But if it was their child, they want the world to come to a halt.” - Another day in the Death of America Gary Younge The stories that Younge searched out are not exaggerated. African Americans are six times more likely to be incarcerated, twice as likely to be unemployed, and almost three times more likely to live in poverty than whites. Younge condemns a system that renders the poor and the dark in America invisible.
Institutional racism still holds black students back When Trevor Manual launched the national Planning Commission’s report in 2011, he told the story of an African 18-year-old matric pupil - Thandi. Because she was black and a female, she only had a 4% chance of getting into university Financial and other barriers forced her to remain at home and there was only a 4% chance of her getting a job. In fact, she only got her first job five years after finishing school. Little has changed for people like Thandi since then. Teacha! Magazine | 11
Racism is the belief or attitude that the colour of a person’s skin determines their intellectual capacity. There is blatant racism which is direct and can easily be named as such. The other type of racism subtle and not easily articulated. It is very difficult to discern because it is indirect. It is normally more obvious to the recipients than it is to the perpetrators. It is difficult to name is because it is explained away as something other than racism. In a 2015 newspaper column, Professor Max Price, the then University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice-Chancellor, reflected on what had transpired during the #RhodesMustFall protests at the UCT. He admits that initially, he couldn’t understand where the students and staff members were coming from when they started the protests, as he had thought that UCT had been an example of racial equity and redress. He, however, after reflecting very deeply - came to a realisation that there existed at UCT a subtle kind of institutional racism that had developed over the years, prompting many students, mostly black African to feel like outsiders who were just being tolerated.
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He explains that as he revisited the symbols, statues, photos, and certain practices within UCT he could see why a young African student would feel a sense of hurt and even humiliation. In the photography work intended to depict apartheid for instance — black people are shown "in the wastelands of the Bantustans, in desolate squatter camps and the dehumanising grip of the migrant labour system, while White people were portrayed ‘as powerful, privileged overlords". It did not help that UCT also had the statue of Saartjie Baartman – the Khoisan woman who was shipped from Africa for her body to be exhibited as a freak show for perverted Europeans during the times of colonialism. Price tells a story of how he observed that white students were more confident and able to relate to lecturers compared to their black counterparts. White lecturers saw this too; they did not offer any comfort or extend the same courtesy to the black students. This kind of subtle racism has permeated the schooling system since the dawn of democracy. Many South Africans question the need for this type of conversation so
many years after the supposed demise of apartheid. The reality remains that racial discrimination stubbornly occupies every facet of South African life; especially and more worrying in education. When one looks at the triple cocktail of unemployment, poverty and inequality – there’s no price for guessing which racial group is the worst affected. The Children’s Institute Child Gauge (UCT) of 2019 contends that over two thirds of black children live in a household with no working adult. The same document states that 65% of black children live in poverty compared to 31% coloured; 16% Indian, and 3% white children.
Racism in South African schools In July 2017 St John’s College, one of South Africa's foremost elite Anglican schools, found itself embroiled in a race crisis that made national headlines. A senior teacher was found guilty of misconduct in an internal hearing about a racist attack against South African black, Indian, and Greek students as well as foreign students. He was given a final written warning but remained part of the school personnel. Many parents were furious and said he has merely been given a slap on the wrist. Black parents felt helpless. ‘I feel so very helpless,’ said one parent noting that she felt the school had closed ranks around the teacher. ‘Everyone pretends the school's perfect, but it's not,’ said another parent, who contended that racism was rife at the school. The St Johns incident was not an isolated story as black pupils bear the brunt of racism in many other situations. In 2016, Pretoria Girls High School faced anger from South Africans after its pupils revealed how the school's code of conduct suppressed black pupils from expressing and being themselves in terms of their hairstyles. The reality is that many school based their codes of conduct on the white experience, principles, and values despite the fact South Africa is a constitutional democracy with rights.
The experience of Catholic schools Catholic Schools in South Africa educate about 175 920 learners. An initial look at the racial profiles of schools reveals 93% are black (Africans, coloured, Indian and Asians) and 7% are white – which closely parallels the national demographics. However, when one takes a closer look at the schools’ racial profiles one sees a worrying trend – the disparities between rich and poor are glaring. Many of the wealthy upmarket schools are mainly filled with white pupils and some have purely white teachers and governors. The majority of black pupils remain in poorer schools. In certain middle-income schools and wealthy schools, black staff members are mainly non-teaching staff and this the case even when black pupils might be in the majority. This situation cannot be left unchallenged and if critical reflection is part of our ethos in Catholic schools – then our integrity is on the line if the status quo remains. The religious congregations and the SACBC in the heyday of apartheid, under difficult circumstances - decided to open all schools to all races – and we believe that this places more responsibility on Catholic schools to take the lead and reaffirm that stance. Pretending that racism is non-existent in racially diverse contexts is not helpful and is an insult to the values of diversity enshrined in our Constitution. Such an attitude is both dangerous and short-sighted. These approaches seek to perpetuate an undesirable historical, and segregated status quo – to appease the traditional parent race of the school. A familiar refrain from many school practitioners is that integration must be natural, slow, and not forced. Many schools fail in this regard because they do not reflect deeply on their situation and practices – opening themselves up to negative perceptions from the public. Schools must go out of their way to mirror the values of non-racialism in their everyday activities. Research shows that stereotypes are learned and can, therefore, Teacha! Magazine | 13
be unlearned. If schools were to consciously engage children of all races in activities and conversations that challenge these discriminatory beliefs â€“ it would go a long way in building the kind of desegregated society envisaged in our Constitution.
Affirming identity and embracing diversity In a post-apartheid South Africa, we cannot still be stuck in discussions of racial diversity and multiculturalism. We must look again (and again) at race and class inequality. White privilege has been a refrain we have heard a lot in recent weeks and must be considered very seriously. White privilege is an advantage, head start, opportunity, or protection from systemic mistreatment, which whites generally have and which black people do not. Recognizing this white privilege allows us to to better understand the elements that contribute to inequality driven by race. Hard work may be part of the reason why some people succeed, but privilege is also part of the explanation. Just as many whites have worked hard, so have millions of people black people. However, the discriminatory barriers and fewer connections mean that they their chances of overcoming the challenges of their environment are harder to overcome. 14 | Teacha! Magazine
White families have accumulated their professional credentials and wealth in a system that restricted the ability of black people to do so. White people may have worked hard, but have also been given preference in employment, housing, and schools.
A different approach is needed The approach that schools need must accept and respect the identity of children within the school and embrace diversity. What does this mean in practice? Policies: Schools need to reflect and determine whether their policies and practices reflect the diversity that is desired in our society. Some school policies still subliminally perpetuate racial stereotypes e.g. hair policy. Racial integration: How racially integrated are the staff? Does it mirror the demographics within the population e.g. a 95% black pupil population with 95% white teaching staff, 100% black support staff somehow perpetuates the stereotype that black people are only good for menial jobs. School practices: What holidays; awareness days do we observe? What kind of pictures/ statues do we display? What books can be found in the library? Are there any African authors? Invited guests: When inviting guest speakers at school do we ensure that there
is a racial mix or do we always go with one race? Debate: Do we encourage children to teach others about their culture so they can appreciate the good in the other? The debates or discussions that we encourage in school must include uncomfortable topics like race. School outings: The excursions that the school undertakes must also include sites like Vilakazi Street, the Apartheid Museum, Voortrekker monument, etc. to name but a few. Learning names: Lastly, are teachers encouraged to know the children by name and avoid making excuses about certain names/surnames being difficult? Teachers must make a considerable effort to know the children beyond school and recognize that their background forms part of their identity. Steve Biko was at pains during his life to
explain that the situation black people found themselves in during the apartheid era was a deliberate act of white supremacist leaders. It would therefore seem to us, like it did to him, that we need to make deliberate efforts to eradicate racism in our society beyond mere policy pronouncements. We have a prophetic responsibility to do so and we dare not falter. Oliver Tambo said: “The demon of racism must be uprooted in its totality. It brutalises people, destroys persons, warps the process of thought, and injects into human society, foul air of tension, mutual antagonism and hatred. It demeans and dehumanises both the victim and the practitioner.” The title of a novel by Chinua Achebe reminds us that we should be ‘no longer at ease’ with the status quo.
Authors: Mduduzi Qwabe and Mark Potterton Mduduzi Qwabe is a former teacher and CSO Regional Coordinator for the Free State and is currently Manager: Policy, Advocacy and Government Relations at the Catholic Institute of Education. Mark Potterton is currently the primary school principal of Sacred Heart College, Observatory. This article was originally published on spotlight.africa in June 2020 Teacha! Magazine | 15
Teachers feel excluded from South Africa’s schools by race and culture
Emotions ran high at a high school south of Johannesburg in 2017 when the largely coloured community rejected the appointment of a black principal. A group of black teachers were also removed from the school because coloured parents didn’t want them there. The apartheid system delineated people using racial categories – white, black, Indian and coloured – and these continue to influence post-apartheid South African society. This high school’s story is just one example of the many types of exclusion teachers face regularly. The problem is that debates about exclusion focus almost exclusively on the experiences of learners as they try to overcome barriers of race, culture, gender, sexuality, class, disability and language. Yet teachers also have difficulties around inclusion, participation and belonging in post-apartheid schools. Many have migrated from historically black to historically white schools because these tend to be better resourced, classes are smaller, safer school environments, more learning support services and in some cases higher salaries. But being employed by a school doesn’t automatically guarantee inclusion. A study I conducted with my colleague Professor 16 | Teacha! Magazine
Yusef Waghid showed that even when black teachers are hired at historically white schools, they have to deal with constant questions about their “competence” and whether their work is in line with a school’s stated “standards”. Education experts argue that the term “standards” is often used to justify profoundly racialised conceptions of a diametrically opposed “white competence” and “black incompetence”. The ongoing exclusion of particular teachers from schools – whether on the basis of race, religion, culture, or sexuality – has serious implications for learners as well as the curriculum. On the one hand, learners do not encounter the life-worlds of diverse teachers. On the other hand, learners from minority groups struggle to find points of resonance. This leaves them with no option but to assimilate into the dominant way of thinking and being. Learners benefit from being exposed to multiple and unfamiliar teacher identities. They begin to experience those they previously might not have encountered. They enter life-worlds which they otherwise might not have known. It’s time that policymakers paid serious attention to the problem of teacher exclusion.
Teachers feel excluded One of the people involved in our study – a black woman – was appointed as a maths teacher at a school that taught predominantly coloured children. She was only allowed to teach Mathematical Literacy (a subject that involves basic problemsolving). The school said this was because she required “mentoring”, even though she was qualified and had prior experience as a maths teacher. Another participant in our study, a South African of Indian descent, was appointed at a school of mostly white learners. He faced continuous complaints from parents whose children apparently couldn’t understand his accent. The teacher left the school after only 10 months. His decision was prompted by the principal asking whether he would be taking leave to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid. The principal had seemingly failed to realise that he was in fact not Muslim, but a practising Hindu. But these issues aren’t being addressed. Perhaps one of the reasons is that South Africans are preoccupied with trying to adhere to what can be measured in an employment equity framework as set out in the country’s laws. As American political theorist and feminist Marion Iris Young, however, points out these frameworks don’t necessarily equate to inclusive processes of recognition, participation or respect. Teachers might be employed at a particular school but their presence doesn’t equal participation. Humans are caught up in a world of perception and cannot extricate ourselves from it. Consequently, in a country whose history is so marred by racism and colonialism, many South Africans
can’t imagine that a “black” teacher is a “competent” teacher anymore than they can imagine that they might be able to learn from a teacher with an “Indian” accent. What’s needed is a different way of looking at the world. Schools offer spaces where learners can be exposed to difference and diversity through employing teachers from across racial, cultural and religious lines. Policy is insufficient in cultivating these spaces. The onus rests on both school leadership and governance structures to realise their responsibility in preparing learners for what it means to participate in a pluralist society. One way of cultivating a more inclusive and diverse school environment for learners is through including diverse teachers.
Solutions Tackling teacher exclusion can create an environment where teachers and learners remain conscious that there’s more to know and more to include. This is because the exclusion of any individual or group within a teaching space is, in fact, a shutting down of the imagination and uncertainty. Exclusion instils a smaller world. It promotes sameness, and defuses dissonance. It diminishes people’s capacity for critical engagement. Beyond government taking action to remedy the situation, teachers also need to assert their authority and contest historical apartheid-era images of power through race and culture or ethnicity. It’s only through questioning that others can be drawn into deliberative engagements and debates. This affirms people’s presence and is an opportunity to see them as they are. South Africa’s classrooms will be better places if these perceptions begin to shift.
Author: Nuraan Davids Prof Nuraan Davids is the Chairperson of the Department of Education Policy Studies in the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University. This article was originally published online by The Conversation. Teacha! Magazine | 17
Racism is still rife in South Africa’s schools. What can be done about it This article was previously published in the Teacha! Magazine in 2019.
demographics of former white and private schools.
It’s 2019, almost 25 years into South Africa’s democratic dispensation, and racism is still playing out in the country’s schools.
The problem is that general assimilatory practices persist. These don’t deal with each learner as an individual. Instead, they expect black students to think, look and speak like their white peers so that they don’t somehow stand out. The attitude of “this is our school, our culture, our language; if you want to be here, you will have to accept and adapt to it” is rife.
Most recently, a primary school teacher was accused of separating children according to race. Elsewhere, a high school was accused of progressing white pupils who failed while holding back black pupils who’d failed. There have been numerous other stories of racist behaviour, separatist language policies and instances of schools turning away largely black pupils, claiming their classrooms are full. This is happening despite legislative changes since the end of apartheid, along with a noticeable change in the
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Many formerly whites only schools also show little flexibility in accommodating the identities and worldviews of students from other race groups. There are several ways to deal with these issues, from initiating national dialogues to training teachers to identify their own biases.
racist language or behaviour.
First, it’s necessary to establish some parameters. What is racism? Is it the same as prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping? These issues have been widely studied, and useful definitions have emerged.
Teachers often don’t realise what they’re doing or that they are being guided by bias. For example, a teacher may tell a black pupil, “you speak good English”. This is a derogatory remark masked as a compliment – it implies that black people aren’t expected to speak English well. The teacher in question may be shocked to be accused of racism; such statements become normalised and are not recognised as racist by those who make them.
Prejudice is a rigid and unfair generalisation about an entire category of people with little or no evidence. It often takes the form of stereotypes. These are exaggerated and simplified descriptions applied to every person in a minority group. Unfair discrimination is any unequal treatment of different groups of people. It can take different forms. An example of fair discrimination in a school would be allocating the front seats in the classroom to learners who are visually impaired. Unfair discrimination could involve allowing the blue-eyed learners to have a longer break than those with green eyes – or grouping white and black kids separately. Racism, meanwhile, includes beliefs, thoughts and actions based on the idea that one race is innately superior to another. Many of the events that play out in South African schools can be classified as implicit racism. That’s because racism in schools very often emanates from broader structural and institutional racism. This is less easy to recognise from the outside than instances of
Racism is also closely linked to structures of power. Teachers, for example, often hold more power – either directly inscribed in policies or codes or indirectly exercised through education practices – than learners in a classroom setting. The way the teacher uses that power can determine the extent to which a learner, especially one who is of a different race group to the teachers, can speak back to that power.
Possible solutions Legislation alone is not going to ease the edgy co-existence between different race groups that persists in many schools. A mind shift is needed at a national level. To address the problem of racism in South African schools, the country must first understand its origins. Today’s school racism Teacha! Magazine | 19
is the product of a long history of many kinds of inclusion and exclusionary practices that favoured one group at the expense of others. Exploring this history will provide South Africans with an understanding how the racism seen in schools today forms part of a broader structural discourse of separation based on race. It will also help people to identify how racism shows up in covert and overt ways. A national indaba (discussion or conference) on racism in South African schools which addresses the concerns of white and black teachers, school managers, governors and learners could also be valuable. This might culminate in a national memorandum of understanding of how schools are to operate in a non-racist way, including
dealing with notions like “white people are inherently racist” and “black people cannot be racist”. Accountability and appropriate consequences should be laid out in this document. Racism is learned and can therefore be unlearned. Teachers can play a significant role in mediating the negative effect of racism in classrooms, schools and society. They are well placed to start conversations in learners’ early lives and to use creative teaching strategies to disrupt the rigid narratives of race. They can also be trained to interrogate their own implicit biases and consciously work against these, as well as to combat racism. This has been done elsewhere in the world, through various programmes.
Author: Jerome Joorst Lecturer and Researcher in the Department of Education Policy Studies, Stellenbosch University
This article was originally published online by The Conversation.
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An Anti-Racism Reading List When we see injustice, it's up to us to step in and make a difference. As Angela Davis said: it's not enough to not be racist, we need to be actively anti-racist. How to Argue With a Racist Rutherford, Adam Race is real because we perceive it. Racism is real because we enact it. But the appeal to science to strengthen racist ideologies is on the rise - and increasingly part of the public discourse on politics, migration, education, sport and intelligence. Stereotypes and myths about race are expressed not just by overt racists, but also by well-intentioned people whose experience and cultural baggage steer them towards views that are not supported by the modern study of human genetics. Even some scientists are uncomfortable expressing opinions deriving from their research where it relates to race. Yet, if understood correctly, science and history can be powerful allies against racism, granting the clearest view of how people actually are, rather than how we judge them to be.
The Bluest Eye Morrison, Toni Unlovely and unloved, Pecola prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows. At once intimate and expansive, unsparing in its truth-telling, The Bluest Eye shows how the past savagely defines the present. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrisonâ€™s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterised her writing.
This is an extract from the Anti-Racist Reading List originally published on Snapplify.
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Collective Amnesia Putama, Koleka This highly-anticipated debut collection from one of the country’s most acclaimed young voices marks a massive shift in South African poetry. Koleka Putuma’s exploration of blackness, womanhood and history in Collective Amnesia is fearless and unwavering. Her incendiary poems demand justice, insist on visibility and offer healing. In them, Putuma explodes the idea of authority in various spaces – academia, religion, politics, relationships – to ask what has been learnt and what must be unlearnt. Through grief and memory, pain and joy, sex and self-care, Collective Amnesia is a powerful appraisal, reminder and revelation of all that has been forgotten and ignored, both in South African society, and within ourselves.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Angelou, Maya 'I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it's like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again' Maya Angelou In this first volume of her seven books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination, violence and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration.
So You Want to Talk About Race Oluo, Ijeoma Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy--from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans-has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair--and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend? In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life. 22 | Teacha! Magazine
Shifting perceptions through schools to combat Covid-19 Can schools serve as advocates of the new social behaviour system? The formulation of a national committee tasked with setting out guidelines and reimagining the social behaviour of citizens (in order to acclimatise society to new practices under the cloud of Covid-19) is a brave step towards aligning society with the demands of the new normal. Teacha! Magazine explores the role that schools can play in this campaign.
concerns and questioned South African schoolsâ€™ readiness to adapt to the new normal.
While we have seen the return of grades 7 and 12 learners to the classrooms, prominent members of society have taken to the courts. Trying to halt the opening of schools, these citizens have noted their safety
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when HIV/Aids and TB infections were at their peak, the Department of Basic Education conducted a collaborative campaign in schools to change perceptions around living
The virus poses a unique challenge to schools and the schooling system, as some of the vital tools needed to combat the spread are not readily available at some institutions. Social distancing remains a challenge due to the overcrowding in The total number of Covid-19 infections in some of the public schools. This leaves a South Africa has increased consistently since huge question mark as to how classes can continue and learning can be achieved. the further easing of the national lockdown from June 2020. These numbers are Schools should spread the message expected to continue to rise exponentially with the peak in infections coming around As the virus is expected to be with us for August 2020. months (possibly, years) to come, the new national committee will be tasked The big debate since the easing of regulations has been whether or not to allow with identifying the necessary measures needed to assist in instilling new behavioural learners to return to school. While Covid-19 infections are rising, there are also fears that measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. the learning schedule will continue taking a The Department of Basic Education, in heavy knock if school gates remain closed. collaboration with the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development It has been argued that it is particularly have a proven track record of successfully important for grades 7 and 12 learners to conditioning learners and changing their return to classes. The reasoning here is that attitudes around issues that are central to we need to avoid a backlog of learners who would naturally have to advance to the next the wellbeing of the communities they are based in. stage of their schooling.
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alongside people who were known to have been infected. One of the main challenges during the HIV/ Aids pandemic was the stigma attached to patients and their families. Schools played a key role in battling the stigma through the socialised campaigns that were launched by the Department of Basic Education and Department of Health. It was impressive to see the pupils absorb the lessons and actively spread those same messages into their communities and ultimately into their homes. Fast-forward 20 years and our country is faced with a different pandemic. This pandemic requires a similarly aggressive
campaign with a strong focus on shifting peopleâ€™s perceptions around hygiene, oneâ€™s overall state of health, and how it impacts those around us. At the moment, schools are faced with specific challenges, such as the safety of educators and learners, lack of a consistent supply of safety resources and an interrupted learning calendar. However, as steps are taken to mitigate the impact of the virus, it is equally important to consider the role that schools can play in shifting societiesâ€™ perceptions around behavioural habits and how these can be adjusted to curb the spread of the virus in our communities.
Author: Levi Letsoko Levi Letsoko is an experienced media content writer and a parent based in Johannesburg. He writes for publications such as Brainstorm Magazine, Fast Company and The Voice Of Local Government with a strong focus on tech, entrepreneurship, corporate governance and business leadership. He is equally passionate about coding. Twitter: @LeviLetsoko 24 | Teacha! Magazine
Wellbeing for tired teachers Eight tips to becoming a less tired teacher I have been teaching for 25+ years, and I know any teacher would agree with me when I say that there is no tiredness like teacher-tired. For many of us, the challenges we have had to face – from the technological to the emotional to the physical – during this pandemic have taken this exhaustion to a new level. But fortunately, there are several ways to combat this tiredness so that we can continue to support our students and be the best teachers we can be. Try these tips to feel more well-rested and motivated:
1. Adopt a growth mindset This is such a powerful tool and something that I not only reiterate with my students, but also try hard to incorporate into my own life on a daily basis. The three simple growthmindset concepts from psychologist and author, Carol Dweck are: Your brain is a muscle, so exercise it. As teachers in these strange times, we need to stay stimulated. This, for me, is vitally important to keep stamina up. So yes, do your school work, ensure that your students have the best resources – even if it means showing your creative side and writing your own reading stories, doing some research, and taking a course to upskill yourself. This is good for the soul. Why not try to pick up a book once in a while or even build a puzzle? Keep your brain in shape. It is okay to make mistakes. We tell this to our pupils all the time. Now it is time to tell yourself. My goodness, we have gone into a whole new era of learning in a matter of weeks! It is okay to make mistakes! The trick, however, is not to give up. Go make a cup of tea and think of a different way to approach the task! Now try again! You’ve got this! The power of YET. I think this is my favourite. I don’t know how many times over the last few months, I have made a statement like: I can’t do this. This makes no sense. I don’t understand. Let us rather rephrase those statements to say: I can’t do this YET. This makes no sense YET. I do not understand YET. The word YET is very powerful, especially when you look at it in this context. Give it a go – it works. Teacha! Magazine | 25
The three concepts above are really ‘superhero’-like when it comes to powers. What works even better is to have visual aids that go with each concept. We always share these ideas with our pupils; now it is our turn to share it with ourselves, friends and colleagues.
2. Use positive affirmations This is a great tool for us teachers to keep our energy levels up. Halfway through the year, I start sending positive affirmations home with my learners on a weekly basis. They paste them somewhere visible to see every day. Many times, we teachers actually receive affirmations from our learners in the forms of pictures and letters, or we’ve seen or received various thoughts and sayings from colleagues. Make use of these in the same way your learners have. Paste them in your diary, on your mirror, the fridge and even behind the bathroom door. Every time you see those affirmations, say them a few times, and while you are saying them take a moment to breathe. Even when I am working, I talk to myself and repeat my positive affirmations. There are super ones on the net; however, I often create my own.
3. Breathe Why do we need to breathe? Firstly, to get some oxygen to our brains; secondly, to give us time to relax and think carefully about the next step. There are many ways to do breathing exercises, but just a simple in and out five times is sufficient. It will ground you, enable you to use all of your senses and ultimately, to think clearly. In my experience, once you can think clearly you are not as tired or unsettled.
4. Set daily goals Start setting intentions for the day ahead each morning before you even get out of bed, or do so the night before (which I prefer to do). Determine what you want to achieve that day, even if you add some belly breathing or shape breathing exercises to your list, reciting your affirmations, and making use of the word YET, to achieve your goals. In the evenings, go back and check in with yourself. Tick goals off your list as they are achieved.
Author: Pamela Diesel With more than a quarter-century of teaching behind her, Pamela Diesel is passionate about education – whether it is sharing exciting ideas with children in class or helping other teachers to upskill themselves through her numerous workshops. 26 | Teacha! Magazine
5. Update your workspace If you are working from home, and have not returned to school, unclutter your space at home and give it a new look. Add some flowers, a pretty picture, quotes, affirmations, growth mindset posters, and even a vision board. Surround your place with happy items. Let your environment motivate you! You will find yourself concentrating more and find more energy in your renewed space.
6. Remind yourself why you teach Place motivational teaching posters around your space; communicate with your students and parents. Let them remind you about your passion for teaching.
7. Try something new Start a new course, join a class or a group, start a new hobby or learn a new skill. Find a new niche or lease on life. There is nothing like starting afresh to find renewed energy, food for the soul and your mental health.
8. Uplift others Teachers are natural givers and what better way to uplift yourself than to uplift others? We naturally elevate our pupils every day, but why not inspire a teacher friend? We need each other, especially during this time. We need each other to throw ideas around, to share resources, to teach each other new skills or just to be a listening ear. Teaching is a profession where you donâ€™t always get a chance to relax: your list is never complete. However, you need to force yourself to stay motivated and look after your own welfare and that of colleagues. This will help you to find energy, to find rest and to find peace. So take matters into your own hands. Once you do, you'll realise that self-motivation is the best motivation of all! Self-motivation will help you rest and have a happy, healthy body and mind going forward. All of the above must and can be followed into the classroom and into your personal life. Go forth and find your energy through life, others and YOURSELF! Teacha! Magazine | 27
Teaching at home and at school How to be in two places at once It’s the year 2020 – the setting of several futuristic sci-fi movies like Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, Edge of Tomorrow and Pacific Rim – and it’s getting hard not to feel like we’re in a movie ourselves. Everything seemed to change overnight. While we were once teaching in classes brimming with students (some more than they should have been) and high-fiving with reckless abandon, now, for many of us, our teacher desks have become our dining room tables and our high fives, digital waves. Now, much like the heroes and heroines of these movies, teachers are being called to do what they have always done – be dynamic, resourceful and brave as we take on the challenges that our profession throws at us. One of the many new challenges is: How do I reach my students at home when I am also teaching students in the classroom? The reality (and in my opinion, tragedy) of South African schooling has been highlighted by this pandemic: Different schools and their students can have vastly different levels of access to the resources that they need for learning. In our school, we have found that the resource in highest demand is data. Most of our students have access to a device in their home, but many struggle with access to the internet. In chatting with my teacher friends and other teachers in the edtech community, I have come across a number of different ways to address the issue of teaching those at home while others are at school, and I would like to present some of them to you in order of data required:
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No internet connectivity or no device Printed work packs collected from school ✓ Fairly easy to access ✓ No data usage ✓ No need for a device ✗ Time-consuming and potentially costly for parents to access (transport) Printing and time cost at school ✗ Added exposure risk This is the simplest of the solutions and doesn’t require data connectivity. The teacher can prepare a work pack for a week ahead of time and somebody can then collect it from the school on behalf of the student. Something to keep in mind when putting the packs together is that according to the Cleveland Clinic, Covid-19 typically survives on paper for up to 24 hours.
Minimal internet connectivity Park and sync ✓ Free data for parents and students ✓ Access to digital resources Time-consuming and potentially costly for parents to access (transport) ✗ Can clog the school’s network ✗ There is a delay between teachers posting work, students doing the work and students receiving feedback on the work Some schools who have their own internet connection are opting for a “park and sync” model. This allows parents of learners in the school to park their cars in the school’s parking lot or travel to the school and sit in the parking lot while observing social distancing, in order to access the school’s WiFi. In this way, teachers can upload assignments to the learning management system (for example, Snapplify Engage or Google Classroom) and the student’s device can be synced in the parking lot. The student works offline at home and then syncs again the following week. The Snapplify Reader enables students to access their ebooks and resources offline, while Google products can also be used offline. WhatsApp ✓ Low data usage ✓ Accessible for most students ✗ Data costs for parents ✗ Parents and students have access to the teacher’s cellphone number ✗ Feedback from the teacher is limited Some schools have gone the route of using WhatsApp to communicate with parents and students. One of the drawbacks of this tool is that the parents and students will automatically have access to the teachers’ phone numbers. If the teachers are comfortable with this, or the school is able to purchase additional SIM cards for teachers, this can be a very effective method.
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Some tips to consider: • You can set up a group for your class or grade. • You may want to use an admin-only group or make use of broadcast messages. There is a setting in WhatsApp groups that only allows admins to post messages. Alternatively, broadcasting a message will allow you to send the same message to several contacts at once (this appears as an individual message from you – not in a group). Both of these options mean that parents will need to contact the teacher directly if necessary and will avoid a group becoming out of control. • To avoid high data costs, try not to send high-res images or videos. • Not all devices can read PDFs, so JPEG files are your safest bet, apart from plain text messages (which use the least amount of data). • Things like Google Slides can be saved as images to send out. You can also take screenshots on your phone. • You can run an image through a compressor to make the file size even smaller. I like wecompress.com for this purpose.
Moderate internet connectivity Bolster WhatsApp groups For learners in your class who have better, but still low internet connectivity, you could bolster the WhatsApp support by adding short explanation videos or voice notes. You can also make use of video or voice call. Uploading a video to YouTube and sending your students a link will use less of their data than sending the video via WhatsApp.
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Good internet connectivity Assign work through a Learning Management System (LMS) like Snapplify or Google Classroom ✓ A wide variety of learning experiences ✓ Students get direct access to feedback from the teacher Requires a fair amount of data There might be a steep learning curve if it hasn’t been used before E-learning solutions like Snapplify and Google Classroom allow you to assign a variety of learning opportunities to students. You can add more videos, weblinks, presentations, docs, quizzes and more. The same work can be assigned on these platforms as is done in the classroom with students. Some schools have decided to go digital-only, meaning that there are no books. Students bring a device to school which they use for their lessons and they take the device home with them in the afternoon. All feedback is digital. In this case, learners who are at home are able to access all of the materials via the e-learning platform.
Unlimited internet connectivity Broadcast your lesson live ✓ Students can see their teacher and classmates ✓ Students get direct access to feedback from the teacher ✓ Students can communicate easily Requires a lot of data and is reliant on a stable internet connection There might be a steep learning curve if it hasn’t been used before There are a number of ways that this could work, but basically the teacher would broadcast a live lesson via video conferencing software such as Google Meet, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This could be from the teacher’s house or classroom, with students in the classroom or out. If done from the classroom, the teacher would need to set up a device that has access to the video conferencing tool (such as a tablet, cellphone or laptop) in such a way that it videos the lesson while the teacher presents it live. Students who are at home would log in and be able to watch and participate in the lesson. Students then complete the assigned tasks; for example, in Google Classroom. Having a webcam and microphone would help to make this smoother, but it isn’t necessary. In this post-lockdown reality, I am sure that we teachers will continue to innovate and make the most of the resources that we have at our disposal. Author: Jenna Swano Once an English FAL teacher at a Cape Town high school, Jenna Swano now has the joy of being a Grade 5 class teacher. Jenna runs the blog Thinking CAPS, which highlights her lessons learnt in the classroom.
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No child left behind
Schooling strategies for inclusive education in the time of Covid-19 The focus on inclusion has been growing at a steady pace. Globally, organisations such as UNICEF have been safeguarding the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) since 1989, reminding governments to support learners who have been forgotten or left behind by economic and social progress.
In South Africa, then Minister of Education Professor Kader Asmal called for the integration of special needs education in the education system nearly two decades ago, speaking of the ‘difference special schools can make when they provide a quality and relevant learning experience’.
The South African Ministry of Education has defined inclusive education as: • Acknowledging that all children and youth can learn and that all children and youth need support. • Enabling education structures, systems and learning methodologies to meet the needs of all learners. • Acknowledging and respecting differences in learners, whether due to age, gender, ethnicity, language, class, disability, HIV or other infectious diseases. • Broader than formal schooling and acknowledging that learning also occurs in the home and community, and within formal and informal settings and structures. • Changing attitudes, behaviour, teaching methods, curricula and environment to meet the needs of all learners. • Maximising the participation of all learners in the culture and the curriculum of educational institutions and uncovering and minimising barriers to learning.
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Despite the challenges that inclusion proposals can pose, great strides have been made in recent years. Now, however, Covid-19 brings new challenges for teachers and learners to negotiate. While safety must, of course, be the top priority, the face of schooling in South Africa has morphed in the past few months, and this new way of learning can hinder some students from learning effectively. As teachers, our mandate is to strive to ensure that all children receive the best education possible – and this means that we need to find ways to accommodate learners with different needs. Our goal, as schools, should be to make our schools and education accessible to learners with all kinds of abilities and backgrounds.
Simple strategies to ensure access for all The current Covid-19 regulations have necessitated innovation on behalf of teachers. For many, teaching online was (and may even continue to be) a daunting task, but regardless, teachers are excelling at finding innovative ways to bring education into the homes of their learners. Educators have quickly realised that many families do not have access to the internet, devices or printers to replicate work being done during a regular school day. Assignments, assessments and expectations have had to change to ensure that learners are able to complete these tasks using the resources they have. Just think about how you and your students have had to adapt in the past few months. Were there learners who have not been able to do or hand in assignments? What were the reasons for this and how could the school support them? Did you provide work online only or could you supply paper copies? This kind of innovation – adapting our approach for learners from different socioeconomic backgrounds – is what we need to keep in mind when we work with differently abled learners too.
Strategies for ensuring that all learners, regardless of background or ability, have access to education during this time include: • Phoning students to discuss the work telephonically, or even reading prescribed books over the phone, when families do not have computer or internet access. • Lending out devices from the school, if possible. • When possible, arranging small study groups on video conferencing calls. • Making explanatory (“how to”) videos to send to families via email, WhatsApp, apps such as SeeSaw or other platforms that require very little data usage. • For learners with hearing disabilities, exploring the options of closed captioning (CC) on virtual conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet. • Providing learners with time slots to do their work at school – should there be additional classrooms or spaces to ensure that schools still follow the legal guidelines. • Allowing learners who struggle with spelling and writing skills (learner’s that may have learning impairments such as Dyslexia or Dysgraphia) to access speech-to-texts apps or tools on Google Docs, for example. They would be able to speak and have the computer type out the information for them. Once done, they would be able to do some editing before sending the document to their teachers.
Supporting all types of students Ultimately, every child’s experience and reaction to the current time is different, and will be largely influenced by a range of individual factors, from socioeconomic background, to family health, to the child’s unique temperament. For children with anxiety, disabilities or special needs, this time will be even more challenging. Some children have been experiencing anxiety about returning to school and falling ill. The fear is valid and families will need
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support and guidance during the days before learners return to school. Not having seen their friends for months and then emerging from their homes to see masked people everywhere could be confusing. Compulsory mask-wearing is more concerning for some of our learners with different needs, such as Autism. Acknowledging the reality of every individual’s unique circumstances will help to plan for them and to keep them engaged in meaningful learning. Online resources explaining why schools have been closed, why people wear masks, the importance of wearing a mask and how to wash your hands or mask
appropriately can be helpful, as can reallife demonstrations by teachers. Having teachers mention strategies that they have used to feel calm, to reach out for help, or to feel comfortable wearing masks, could be really meaningful to children and will help to foster connection during this difficult time. Ultimately, having empathy for our students and working to support and include them, regardless of the unique challenges they face, will go a long way to helping them to learn and achieve their best. Get creative with differentiated instruction and share your experiences with colleagues – this is a time to make a real difference in your learners’ lives and ensure that no one gets left behind.
Author: Juffer ("My Klaskamer") Juffer (“My Klaskamer”) is a remedial teacher. Her blog www.myklaskamer.com is the go-to portal for South African Foundation Phase teachers and parents.
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Choice boards Giving students agency in their learning Choice boards seem to be a hot topic in edtech at the moment, but what are they, why would you use them, and how do you create them? A choice board in its simplest form is a collection of different activities or tools that students can use to practise, reinforce or demonstrate their learning. The version I’m referring to is the digital and extended version of the “I’m done – now what?” poster that hangs in many classrooms. The idea behind a choice board, as with the poster, is to give students some agency in their learning. Instead of giving a very prescriptive list of activities, teachers provide options, and students choose what suits their learning style best. There are some great examples of digital choice boards out there.
Leigh Walker has a great board of activities to practise phonological awareness skills. You can find it here.
Karly Moura created this fantastic choice board for students to choose their e-learning activities. Access it here. Teacha! Magazine | 35
Lisa Highfill developed this great board for students to choose how they would like to demonstrate their learning. You can access it here.
@LadyWesner has even developed this amazing choice board for teachers, giving ideas for Google Classroom assignments. Find it here.
This choice board, which I created, has a bit of a twist on the original idea. Instead of having a grid layout, which works really well for many activity types, I decided to go for a classroom layout, where each object is hyperlinked to a different slide. The slide that it goes to gives more detail on the activity. I use this board for early finishers who are looking for something meaningful to do. To see these slides, click here. I have found that using choice boards in my classroom has meant that learners are more engaged and motivated to learn. This may be because itâ€™s something new and therefore has the novelty factor, but after chatting with the learners in my class, I feel that it has more to do with the sense of agency that comes with being allowed to choose how they want to learn. 36 | Teacha! Magazine
How do you create a digital choice board? Step one: Choose a topic Some ideas may include: • A board where students choose a method of demonstrating a specific skill or understanding of a topic; for example “The French Revolution” in Grade 6. These choices might include a video in Adobe Spark, a Google Slides presentation or a sketchnote. • A board of tasks that learners can do if they have finished their work. • A board of educational games that focus on a particular skill. • A collection of research topics with links to websites or further information. • A library of digital books or videos for educational or entertainment purposes. • A collection of links to interesting podcasts or audiobooks that students may listen to while drawing or doing a creative activity.
Step two: Choose your tool The only rule for a choice board creation tool is that it needs to be able to handle hyperlinks. Personally, I prefer using something in the Google Suite (mainly because of how easily it integrates with Google Classroom) so I would go for Slides, Docs or Sheets. You can also use the Microsoft Suite, such as MS Word, Excel or Powerpoint or even an interactive PDF creator like Adobe InDesign. Choose a tool that you are comfortable with.
Step three: Design your layout What will this board look like? Grid? Hexagons? Chaos? The choice is yours.
Step four: Add the content This is where you add your choices. Decide on what options you will give your students. Try to make sure that you give your students all of the information that they may need. For example, what are the choices for? How many should they be choosing? Should they submit anything and if so, how? Ideally, you want your students to be able to take it and run with it.
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Step five: Add the links The final step in the creation process is adding in the hyperlinks. A hyperlink can be really powerful. It allows you to link a word, phrase or image to either another part of your document (internal hyperlink) or to a part of a different document or webpage (external hyperlink). In the fifth board example above, where I have created a “classroom”, the images on the first slide link internally to other slides and there are links in the other slides that link to external web pages. How you add the hyperlink will depend on the tool that you are using. In most cases, you either highlight the text that you would like to hyperlink and right-click, or rightclick on the image and go to either “link” or “hyperlink” and paste in the webpage URL, or select the slide in a slide deck. The hyperlink button usually looks like a chain link and that can be used as well.
If you’d like a more step-by-step guide, you can check out this blog post, which details how I created the choice board classroom. Once you’ve created your choice board, you can share it with your students on your chosen platform. You could even invite students to collaborate with you on a choice board that could be used in class.
Author: Jenna Swano Once an English FAL teacher at a Cape Town high school, Jenna Swano now has the joy of being a Grade 5 class teacher. Jenna runs the blog Thinking CAPS which highlights her lessons learnt in the classroom.
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Private, public and civil society partnerships are key to mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the schooling system Joining forces to make a difference
The impact of the Covid-19 outbreak has disrupted the rollout of the annual learning programme immensely. The schooling system is making great strides to recover lost time through the intervention of multistakeholder partnerships. Teacha! Magazine measures the impact of two such initiatives.
Spar and Numberwise While homeschooling his children a couple of years ago, Trevor Lagerwall noticed that his kids struggled with basic numeracy. It didn’t take long before he realised that this might be a broad-based problem. This was the lightbulb moment that inspired him to conceptualise the Numberwise project. Shortly after it was launched, Numberwise
gained a bit of traction with a few schools opting to be early adopters. But it was only when entrepreneur Gavin Horn, who had bought and commercialised Numberwise, won Shark Tank SA – a reality show that pairs entrepreneurs with investors – that Numberwise’s fortunes began to change. “Through conversations with numerous professors and academics, I realised that countries that struggled with numeracy usually lacked an understanding of the basics,” says Horn. “Numberwise is a basic numeracy app designed for Grade 1 to 7 learners, but it has crossed over to older learners struggling with the subject, including those in adult-based education (ABED) programmes.” Teacha! Magazine | 39
Spar has always been passionate about being involved in the Foundation Phase of schooling. They initially came on board as advertisers on the app until they decided to give their customers free access to the app in the beginning of 2020. After taking note of the impact of the pandemic on the schooling calendar, Spar decided to give all South Africans discount coupons via social media to access the app for homeschooling whilst learning remotely. “Spar wanted to extend a helping hand during the outbreak by helping create access to free online education in partnership with Numberwise,” says Horn. The collaboration between Spar and Numberwise has produced numerous green shoots as it has created an awareness around the importance of mathematics at all levels while simplifying access to this learning resource. “Numberwise continues to experience steady growth. We initially had over 58 000 active users. Our collaboration with Spar has added an extra 15 000 daily users who can access the facility for free which would have ordinarily cost them R300.00 per annum.”
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MTN Foundation and Siyavula Education The Covid-19 outbreak has not only pushed us to rethink our daily routines; it has also created an environment that fosters a creative approach to dealing with unforeseen events, while exposing the digital divide that exists in our society. Siyavula Education is an organisation that has been openly advancing the possibilities presented by edtech, initiating projects that aim to bridge the educational gap caused by the digital divide. The organisation has formed a partnership with the MTN Foundation to devise a platform that can be deployed by the Department of Basic Education in assisting identified beneficiaries to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the learning calendar. “The partnership started about four year ago with the creation of a zero-rated digital platform for learners. In January 2020, MTN SA Foundation provided funds to Siyavula to enable learners on the MTN network free access to the mathematics content available on the site,” says Angie Maloka, Senior Manager of Community Programmes at MTN SA Foundation. “In partnership with the Department of Basic Education, the Foundation funded the digitisation of Computer Applied Technology
and Information textbooks for grade 10–12 learners. These are available on the Siyavula website as part of their content.” Prior to the outbreak, the South African educational landscape was already facing challenges. The migration of traditional teaching methods to online teaching models presented a different set of obstacles that required the involvement of telecommunications companies, technology inventors and educational organisations to pool resources in search of a level playing field for disadvantaged beneficiaries. “Our philosophy is to implement all our projects in collaboration with our partners including government and civil society to ensure a bigger impact and long-term sustainability,” says Maloka. “Through this partnership, learners from all nine provinces (including schools in rural areas and townships) have been able to access the content on the Siyavula website to boost their performance in mathematics,” she concludes. Visit www.spar.co.za/Numberwise / www. numberwise.com/download/download. php and www.siyavulaeducation.com / www.siyavula.com for more info.
Author: Levi Letsoko Levi Letsoko is an experienced media content writer and a parent based in Johannesburg. He writes for publications such as Brainstorm Magazine, Fast Company and The Voice Of Local Government with a strong focus on tech, entrepreneurship, corporate governance and business leadership. He is equally passionate about coding. Twitter: @LeviLetsoko
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Understanding anxiety levels in children during this time Four practical and playful ways to manage child anxiety In this challenging, ever-changing world, symptoms of anxiety inevitably show up in both adults and children in a multitude of ways. The fact that we now find ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic also does not ease our anxiety levels. But there is good news: while anxiety cannot necessarily be avoided, it is something that can be managed. Currently, we are all adapting to a new way of living due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We are getting used to new ways of working, shopping, socially interacting, and living. This change can be frightening and overwhelming, especially for children.
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When faced with new situations and forced adjustments, it is normal for a child â€“ anyone, for that matter â€“ to experience anxiety. Anxiety can be an important way for a child to process what is happening in the world around them, but anxiety that is not properly managed can be a scary and uneasy experience for a child. When you can see a child feeling anxious, it is important to explain to them what anxiety is, what they are feeling emotionally, and what it typically feels like to them in their bodies (racing heart, sweating, trouble breathing, etc.). This helps to normalise the feeling of anxiety, as well as make this feeling less overwhelming for the child.
Easy and fun ways to manage anxiety in children 1. Breathing exercises
When a child feels anxious, help them to control their breathing by focusing on the breaths they take. Focusing on breathing can help to calm the body and to ease the physical symptoms that come with anxiety.
Mindfulness is a great way to manage anxiety and it can also be fun for children to do. Mindfulness involves bringing all of your attention to the present moment. A simple way to practise mindfulness with children is by using the “54321 senses technique”. This technique incorporates all five of our senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) and it involves encouraging children to identify five things they can see in their current environment, four things they can hear, three things they can feel, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste.
An easy breathing technique for children is called the “triangle method”. This method involves a child tracing an imaginary or drawn triangle with their fingers. They begin by tracing the bottom line of the triangle and simultaneously taking a deep breath in for three seconds. They then move on to tracing the diagonal line of the triangle and hold their breath for three seconds. Next, they trace the final line of the triangle, breathing out for three seconds. This process can be repeated until the child feels at ease.
Stretching is a physical activity that children can do to relieve anxiety. Stretching aids in relieving muscle tension which, in turn, helps to reduce anxiety in children. Children can also use their own creativity to come up with their own stretches.
It often helps to write down exactly what or how we are feeling. When we are able to see our feelings on paper, right in front of us, they often appear to be less scary compared to what they looked like in our minds. Writing down one or two words that describe how we are feeling can help us to relax and reflect on why we might be feeling anxious.
While anxiety is a normal response that helps us to process our demanding and dynamic world, it is also a very real, rather overwhelming and sometimes overpowering emotion that can easily cause children to feel scared and confused. Thankfully, if anxiety is identified in children, it can be managed, and the more serious symptoms can be minimised to a certain extent. Author: Micaela Helders Micaela Helders is passionate about empowering people, and has been involved in emotional intelligence programmes with young children, knowing how critical it is for them to learn emotional and social skills at a young age. She holds an Honours Degree in Psychology from Rhodes University and is currently completing a Life Coaching certification course.
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Playing safe at ECD centres Physical safety must go hand in hand with emotional security
Parents are worried about the unknown. Many are reconsidering their plans regarding their child’s education. If children are not able to share toys and learn through interactive play at school, is it even worth sending them back? As a mom to a baby and a toddler, I am torn about whether to send our older child back once the ECD centres re-open. On the one hand, I need to consider the risk of my daughter contacting Covid-19. Also, with all the new protocols in place, do I want to spoil her preconceived ideas of what going to school is? To my daughter, preschool represents spontaneity and fun with some learning happening along the way. Will she be able to experience this in an environment with strict restrictions in place? On the other hand, I’m mindful that the purpose of an Early Childhood Development 44 | Teacha! Magazine
(ECD) centre is to develop learners’ cognitive, emotional, social and physical potential. Preschool is important at this stage of my daughter’s life – her first step away from home, and the basis of her future education. It is a time when children explore and discover in a safe environment, a time of running around, exploring, adventuring, singing songs and laughing with friends. I know that my daughter is affected by having to stay home. When I ask her if she misses her friends, her answer is, “Terribly!” She is missing school, and as a parent, I am missing her going to school too! Seeing people we know is a part of everyday life and it provides a sense of normality, even in this not-so-conventional time. Tovah Klein, a child development psychologist and researcher, states that “Social connection helps children feel less anxious. Connection is supportive; it is
calming. Friends provide companionship, which is particularly needed during times of change or stress.” Smaller children often still play alongside one another with whatever appeals to them, but just that social interaction or watching the response of a friend is important for their growth and development.
with an infectious diseases specialist and illustrated by Axel Scheffler of The Gruffalo, Coronavirus: a book for children is another fantastic resource, as is this short guide. There are also a number of great video lessons on YouTube, such as Teaching Kids about Germs using Glitter.
At the beginning of lockdown, my daughter’s class tried meeting over Zoom. While toddlers with a short attention span zoomed around the room, my shy little one zoomed right out the door. This incident reminded me of the importance of hands-on learning for children – especially small children.
Adapting to the new normal Ultimately, the decision to send children back to school or not is a personal one and each family must weigh up the pros and cons. As parents or teachers of young children, we need to remember that if we do choose to send our children back to school now, they will not be enjoying the same experiences they had at the beginning of the year, before the pandemic hit. But that does not mean it cannot be a great experience. It is amazing to see the way in which kids adapt to a new set of rules, or to the “new normal” as some may call it. I often find that if parents or teachers make a big deal out of change, kids will follow suit. My advice would be to stay as cool, calm and collected as you possibly can. It’s important that kids understand why we are asking them to change certain practices. Talk to your children at home and at school to explain that there is a germ that is spreading from one person to the next and it is making some people sick. There are some fantastic resources available that can help you explain this to your children. One that I enjoyed was The Inside Book by Matthew Griffiths. This book is available in a few different languages (including Afrikaans, isiXhosa and isiZulu) and it can be downloaded for free. Written in consultation
Making social distancing fun for small kids To keep everyone safe, we all need to try to stay away from others so the virus cannot spread. Social distancing games can help our children to remember how to act when they are around other people: • Measure out 1,5m and let your child hop or jump that distance. Tell them that when someone comes close to them, they should remember that they need to stay so many “hops” away. • Older kids will enjoy it if you explain to them that they have a 1,5m forcefield around themselves. They must activate the forcefield when they pass someone or see a friend. • Pretend that you are a statue when there are many people who are trying to pass you in the passage. Do not try to push through. Freeze and wait until there are fewer children and then move along. Teacha! Magazine | 45
Besides disinfecting toys and furniture, the most important rule to teach your little ones is how to wash their hands – properly. Have pictures on the wall about washing hands, talk about it and show them how to wash their hands well (there are quite a few great resources available to help you with this). You can even sing a hand-washing song. Make it appealing and fun to wash hands. Less “free play” and more structured outdoor play can help with keeping kids socially distanced. This will need careful planning and hands-on assistance. You could divide the class into colours and have them rotate to different stations (some on the playground, others throwing a ball in a bucket, skipping, riding motorbikes, some at sensory tables, etc.). Indoors, a rotation system is of value too. Kids can play with clay on allocated seats, spread out. Paste photos of the kids on their chairs to remind them to use their own chair. Using coloured footprints on the floor to stand or sit on is also a fun way to maintain social distance without them even realising. They will be too excited trying to spot their footprints.
Putting physical safety and emotional security first Re-opening preschools is a move that many people will feel differently about. During this time, it’s important to remember that both parents and teachers will always always have a child’s best interests at heart, and as ECDs and schools start up again, creating a safe environment – both physically safe as well as emotionally secure – must be the number one priority.
Author: Emme Scholtz Emme Scholtz is a Foundation Phase teacher who, after five years, has taken a break from teaching to focus on creating a love for learning in her two children. Her store on Teacha! is called Anna & I and is full of fantastic Foundation Phase resources!
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