Teachers at the heart of Education Recovery from Covid- 19 Pandemic

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Professor Vusumzi Mncube, (Dean Faculty of  Education) believes teachers are at the heart of education recovery as various sectors in the country are devising Covid-19 recovery plans.

Speaking at a Teacher’s Day event hosted by the Eastern Cape Department of Education recently, Prof Mncube said the pandemic has challenged an already constrained education system in various new ways which resulted in teachers having to review their teaching methods and how they work, generally.

“While the topic of leadership has been somewhat neglected amongst the multitude of issues facing the teaching profession in the push towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4 and Education 2030 goals, the issue of teacher leadership in relation to crisis responses is not just timely, but critical. Teachers have made a huge contribution in providing remote learning, supporting vulnerable populations, ensuring successful re-opening of schools and ensuring that learning gaps in the curriculum are being mitigated,” he said.

Held on 12 October - a few days after World Teachers’ Day (celebrated on 5 October), the theme of the event was: Teachers leading in crisis; reimagining the future.

Statistics released by UNICEF in July this year laid bare the impact of disruptions in the education sector since the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. According to the report,  rotational attendance, sporadic school closures and days off for specific grades, have resulted in school children losing 54 percent of learning time.

The report further states that some 400 000 to 500 000 learners have reportedly also dropped out of school altogether. This is most likely for children living in informal, urban and rural settings, with household poverty also playing a critical role.

Prof Mncube said while the pandemic has been a major challenge for teachers, it created a unique situation for teacher creativity and innovation to be demonstrated.

“Teachers had to make many adjustments. They adapted to protocols and discovered new ways to teach and engage learners. Due to their resilience, they worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their learners.”

“They turned challenges into opportunities and moved into the Fourth Industrial era through the adaptation to digital technologies in education delivery. Despite the obstacles, they have accomplished amazing things. Every day we see and hear of their inventiveness, tenacity, enthusiasm and strength shown  during the pandeminc.”

Prof Mncube pointed out that support from various stakeholders is crucial to the road to recovery in the education sector. According to him, aside from key roles played by the home as a primary socializing agent, the goals of education cannot be fully achieved without teachers reaching out to the community and imparting expertise on how the community should assist children in school activities.

“The role of teachers is even more applaudable in times of natural calamities when their wisdom and survival skills - which are at the disposal of learners and communities -  can be tapped into. The essential work done by all teachers and educators in South Africa and around the world is well appreciated, especially during this time. They are a key pillar in building sustainable economies today and tomorrow,” he added.