The best teachers make us think about life's challenges in new ways. They expand our horizons; open up fresh possibilities; and make the complicated seem easy. Even deeply mysterious maths problems move from futile to fun under the eye of a quality teacher. It is these kinds of teachers that South Africa, and the Eastern Cape in particular, will rely on to move us past the challenges of today into the unknown demands of tomorrow. We hope you will catch a sense of hope from the thread of "growing great teachers" that winds its way through this update.
Our last newsletter trumpeted the start of Axium's Ekukhuleni Centre, a breeding ground for a new generation of great teachers and other rural professionals. Progress has been good. We've had 30 teaching days (all in addition to regular school time), with students fully engaging with material in a visual, hands-on, discussion-oriented way - often for the first time in their educational lives. Most encouraging have been the fledgling "study groups" that our students have started at their schools, drawing in other students and developing their own skills as teachers.
South Africa's apartheid legacy leaves us with an educational system divided between some excellent public schools and many more that are barely functional. One of our core beliefs is that more teachers need to be exposed to both ends of this spectrum, which is why we've been so excited to host four of the University of Cape Town's PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) students for their second teaching practical. They will leave here having seen and done things that very few teachers at elite schools can comprehend and, whether or not they end up teaching rurally in the long term, the experience will influence their teaching careers for years to come. Watch our blogspot in the weeks ahead for some reflections on their experiences here.
The other side of this coin, of course, is finding ways to expand the horizons of local teachers. A group of physical science teachers from five senior secondary schools is meeting regularly to learn to use and manage practical equipment, discuss sections of work and assist each other to become better teachers. During the week we also "team teach" alongside maths and science teachers, to model and generate discussion about good teaching. The next stage would be to offer a competitive teacher exchange fellowship that would allow motivated teachers to spend time shadowing teachers at great schools in Cape Town or East London, learning about the systems, structures and people that make these schools exceptional.
The final installment on our "growing great teachers" theme involves a group of young "teachers-in-training" from Cape Town. In early July, these isi-Xhosa speaking high school and university students, under the capable leadership of associate staff member Kristi Jooste, ran our 6th Boot Camp at Putuma Junior Secondary School. Learners were given intensive maths lessons each day, and as with previous camps, showed solid improvement over the course of the week, with most doubling their test scores. In the afternoons the students ran a sports clinic for well over 100 local kids, where a message of "sebenza nzima" (work hard) accompanied the skills and drills learnt on the field. Team members Batandwa Ntsebeza and Manyanani Mawisa reflect on their experiences with Axium on our blog.
You may have gathered that we're excited about helping to grow great teachers for this part of the world. We'd like to see more initiatives like the teacher exchange fellowship and science networks take off, but to do so we do rely on your continued support
your finances, your time, by following our progress more closely by "liking" us on Facebook or simply by keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. It is all much appreciated! With this in mind, our thanks go to The Learning Trust for their generous support of Boot Camp #6 and to volunteer Carla McKenzie who leaves us after her stellar efforts every Saturday and in leading our Student Photography Project.
Yours in growing great teachers,
Craig, Michelle and the Axium Team