A Limpopo teacher has been named as a top ten finalist in the Global Teacher Prize 2020. Ms Mokhudu Machaba, who teaches at Ngwanamago Primary School in Polokwane walked away with R1 million, this after the winner, Mr Rabjitsinh Disale won US $1 million and decided to divide half the money equally amongst other finalists.
Machaba, who has been a teacher for 17 years, said as much as teaching has brought her tremendous joy, it was a never career she was interested in. She said it was forced upon her due to the financial difficulties her family faced. She said she opted for teaching because it was the only career she could choose besides being a nurse or a police officer and she is pleased that this decision proved to be extremely rewarding
“I am delighted to have been recognised amongst the best in the world. It’s like a dream come true after all the hard work over the last 17 years of my teaching career. As a foundation phase teacher, I am required to teach all subjects. I have to identify the learners’ abilities and potential and be able to unlock their barriers to learning before they can go to the next phase. This is the area in the child’s life of schooling where they need our full support,” she said.
Machaba said in order to make it to the finals in the competition, which is now it its sixth year, the contestants had to employ effective instructional practices that are replicable and scalable to influence the quality of education globally. She said they also needed to employ practices that address the challenges of the school, community or country and that have shown sufficient evidence to suggest they could be effective in addressing such challenges in a new way.
“Achieving demonstrable student learning outcomes in the classroom. We needed to make an impact in the community beyond the classroom that provides unique and distinguished models of excellence for the teaching profession and others. We also needed to help children become global citizens through providing them with a values-based education that equips them for a world where they will potentially live, work and socialise with people from many different nationalities, cultures and religions,” she added.
Machaba also said that it was important to improve teaching by raising the bar, sharing best practices and helping colleagues overcome any challenges they faced in their school. She said teacher recognition from governments, national teaching organisations, head-teachers, colleagues, members of the wider community or pupils is also important.
“While teachers in South Africa have been criticised in the past for not being good enough, I hope my award will set the record straight that our country has some of the best teachers in the world. I think it is because of the working conditions that teachers find themselves in, but I do believe SA has the best teachers. The only challenge was with the transition of education policy which demanded a lot from teachers, especially in administrative duties. We are doing our best. The issue is when there is a bad element within the sector, it is given the spotlight more than the good ones,” said Machaba.
“I believe that the level of education in South Africa is amongst the best. What is needed is implementation of the policies, monitoring and support. If these aspects can be highly considered, we can go very far as country,” she added.
Speaking about her journey, Machaba said it took five years before she landed her first post. She explained that she got a temporary post, which she held on two years before she was made permanent. She said that in the past decade, she introduced project-based teaching and ICT (information and communications technology) integration into the curriculum.
Machaba said she loves her job and that her greatest joy is seeing her learners achieving and progressing very well in life and living their dreams. She said her school has been supportive in the projects she has started even when they sometimes didn’t understand what she wanted to do. She said she is grateful to all of them
I had to work hard in order to be recognised. I took teaching as my responsibility rather than being just be another government employee. I do my work with passion hence my quote ‘It is very crucial for me to be a teacher, I have lives of people bestowed in my hands, and I need to unleash their potential.’ I carry that in my heart every day,” she said.
While teaching has been a blessing, it has come with plenty of sacrifices. As a teacher, you have to give your all, often compromising your family time. Very often, as teachers, we use our own personal resources to improve the lives of learners who come from psycho-social and economically challenged backgrounds. And we do that with love, knowing we do not expect anything in return. Sometimes as teachers, we put our lives at risk to solve some of gruesome social issues to save the lives of our learners,” she added.
She said her family and friends were delighted for her, they’re proud of her and that she knows that she gave them a challenge to achieve more in their lives and their respective careers. She said coming from humble beginnings, her life has given her family and friends hope that everything is possible.