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ISPA helps drive teaching excellence

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South Africa’s ability to provide learners with effective maths and science education is a key to the future success of our economy.
Poor performance in these important subjects, coupled with a lack of ICT knowledge on the part of South African educators, was identified as a serious problem by South Africa’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), who more than fifteen years ago began to fund ICT training for teachers from under-resourced South African schools. At the time, ICT was finding use in the medicine and public service sectors but lagging behind in the South African education sector, contrary to global trends.
ISPA’s early attempts to initiate a project aimed at boosting the state of ICT in education eventually morphed into the Association’s hugely-successful ‘Train the Teacher’ project. The first year of the project culminated in the inaugural ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year Award which recognised the individual teachers who participated in the IT skills training programme.
To date, the Train the Teacher project – managed with the assistance of CoZa Cares Foundation – has equipped almost 5 000 teachers with ICT skills thanks to continued support from ISPA’s members. In the last three years alone, some 750 educators and district officials have been trained in different ICT courses. These include such noteworthy examples as ICT Leadership and Change management, ICT Support and Operations, Digital Confidence Level 1 and Level 2, Online Persona and Device integration.
A primary objective of one of South Africa’s leading independent initiatives to boost educator ICT knowledge in the country’s schools is to ensure teachers share their newly-acquired skills to improve the greater educational environment within their communities.
“It’s become an acknowledged fact that bears repeating that many past ISPA SuperTeacher award recipients started their training without ever having touched a mouse. They then go onto great things, which include revolutionizing teaching in their classrooms and sphere of influence, while winning further awards that are important for their own personal and professional development,” says Graham Beneke, ISPA chair.
If we examine the continued achievements of two ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year category winners from last year, the truth of Beneke’s statement soon becomes apparent.
“My life has changed. I am a different teacher since my participation in the ISPA competitions.”
That ringing endorsement is according to multiple ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year competition entrant – and eventual 2015 ISPA Champ Teacher – Mabore Lekalakala of Toronto Primary School. She believes that her classroom is now “much more than the physical four-walled structure” she used to make do with. “My learners and I have become part of a huge virtual classroom that extends far beyond the confluence of my community,” she explains. Mabore is not alone in her praises of the ISPA SuperTeacher competition.
Tiny Molepo, ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year 2015, is an educator at Mothibedi Combined School and believes that her accolade last year has helped her achieve “so much” since participating in the competition. She is typical of ISPA SuperTeacher competition participants in that their quest for success never ends. Her ambition has seen her being invited into radio studios and she has even given talks at digital education conferences.
“I was inspired to enter the ISPA SuperTeacher competition and it continues to inspire me,” she says. Another ISPA SuperTeacher of the Year winner, Phuti Ragophala, was recently presented with an Eduweek Lifetime Achievement Award.
ISPA has for the last several years outsourced the management of the SuperTeacher of the Year competition to leading ICT-in-education advocate and service provider, CoZa Cares Foundation. As ISPA’s on-the-ground partner in this worthy initiative, perhaps the last word belongs to CoZa Cares Foundation CEO, Fiona Wallace: “Fully-capacitated teachers equipped with the latest IT knowledge are powerful agents of change to transform education.
” So much more can be done with the kind of appropriate technology tools that are being supplied through the intervention and support of ISPA and its members. Our finalists have more than demonstrated their exceptional use of technology in their classrooms, schools and communities. They are an inspiration to the national teaching community.”