Editorial South Africa

How 2020 has taught the education sector reinvention and prepared it for 2021

All of us look towards this new year with hope and trust in greater and better things to come. This anticipation of change and renewal is especially felt in the education sector as parents and communities around the world gained a deeper appreciation during the lockdowns of the work educators do. With International Day of Education on 24 January, we are celebrating the efforts of an independent school in Thembisa, The Love Trust’s Nokuphila Pre-Primary and Primary School, and its ambitious plans for 2021. These plans will not only benefit the learners in their community but learners and teachers in other ECD centres across the country.

Silas Pillay Director of Academics of The love Trust

Despite the significant challenges of 2020, that saw many businesses and NGOs close their doors for good, The Love Trust not only managed to survive but thrive. Silas Pillay, Director of Academics, believes that it’s through their steadfast focus on The Love Trust’s core objectives, the dedication of their team, making full use of their resources and facilities, and the wonderful generosity of their partners and donors. So much so, The Love Trust will be able to execute expansion plans for their Pre-Primary classes and expand their ECD teacher training programs for 2021.

Pillay explains the importance of investing in ECD and why the expansion will include new grades 000 and grade 00 classes: all research done in the field points out that investment in catching learners earlier, through early childhood development (ECD) is the right approach. “We, at Nokuphila, currently have one grade 000 and one grade 00 classes which feed into two grade R classes, which means 50% of those learners are usually disadvantaged by not having the same quality early educational background. On top of that, our grade R teachers are struggling to ensure that the learners are meeting the necessary milestones they’ll need going into primary school – you’re constantly on the back foot and you cannot scaffold and build on a weak foundation.”

With regards to their teacher training programme which focuses on ECD as well, Pillay witnessed first-hand what a huge negative impact Covid had on ECD teacher students in training. These teachers needed to complete practical training as part of their course work but couldn’t, meaning that their studies were delayed. Pillay, in collaboration with their accreditation partner Teachers Learning Centre (TLC), devised a curriculum that integrates the theoretical and practical requirements to fast track these teacher students while still providing quality training. This will also apply for our 40 new students at various ECD centres.”

But these changes and expansions aren’t just to the benefit of the children attending the new classes and the teachers but, as Pillay explains, to the community as a whole:

“So firstly, the expansion of our pre-primary flagship has a direct impact on the Thembisa community. Where other ECDs have closed down we have 40 additional children, 20 per class, whose whole futures will completely change, because we’ve opened up our doors to them. Secondly, the student teachers of those who will be selected to take part in the new teacher training model will be so well equipped when they go back to their respective centres they will be able to make an immediate difference. If you look at 40 teacher students, and each teacher-student is exposed to no less than 20 children per year, you get a direct impact of 800 learners per year in the community, minimum. And lastly, we’ve got job creation: we are going to take on two new qualified teachers and two assistant teachers.”

In closing Pillay had the following words of advice: “It’s that old adage of ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ Schools, institutions and even individuals in the education fraternity need to extend, enlarge and just broaden their view. This doesn’t mean that you stretch yourself too far. It means, balancing that so-called SMART goal issue of looking at what you have in your hand and how you can be a good steward of it, really utilising it fully for the betterment of all concerned.”

Press Release Issued By The Love Trust

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