The winners in the Excellence in Adult Basic Education and Training category were announced in Johannesburg recently at the National Teaching Awards.
Worcester Community Learning Centre
The energy and appreciation Bernadette Bailey exudes as the head of 13 different adult basic education and training (Abet) sites in Worcester is amazing.
Not surprising, given her rich background in the teaching profession and countless accolades for her work. She has received merit awards, scholarships and Abet awards, including a Skills Centre of the Year award.
In addition to supervising the 13 Abet sites, she is also a substitute teacher at her resident site, which is fully fledged with resources and buzzing with activities.
Just about everything takes place there, from sports to computer literacy courses, as well as growing vegetable gardens and teaching small, medium and micro-enterprise development.
“My learners are motivated because I am results driven and try my best to be compassionate,” she says. Bailey describes her leadership style as participatory, transparent and innovative: “I also believe in rewarding my learners for achieving good results.” Her mission is to raise awareness of the value of adult education.
“We are tapping into the government five-point system,” she says. Her concern is that the Abet system is generally undermined by those who see it as worthless. Bailey would therefore like to see the term changed to something with more meaning. Worcester Community Learning Centre teaches Levels 1 to 4 and grade 12. Constant monitoring and evaluation are at the top of Bailey’s list of priorities to keep optimum levels of efficiency. This gives the centre the edge to remain on top of things and perform well, she says.
Dishaoto Joel Lekgetho
Morakaoula Santho Centre
Widespread illiteracy in the Soweto area prompted Dishaoto Lekgetho to roll up his sleeves and turn the situation around. He says he was heartbroken to see that so many people faced hardships simply because they could not read and write.
“Some people get themselves into serious legal predicaments by signing what they did not read, let alone understand. Others struggle when they have to withdraw money at an ATM, or read or write a letter.
I was devastated and told myself that something has to be done to help these people. I see education as a weapon [in] poverty eradication,” says Lekgetho.
His dream was to study medicine, but he was prevented from pursuing it when he became heavily involved in the liberation struggle. Lekgetho has been part of the Morakapula Santho Centre, where he serves as a skills co-ordinator, since 1997..
The centre offers academic and skills programmes. The academic programme covers both the new and old curriculums, whereas the skills component focuses on printing and design. Lekgetho, who doubles up as a priest, says the centre has helped a number of people to overcome their illiteracy.
“Not so long ago I met a woman who used to be part of the centre. She told me she has just been promoted in her work and has bought herself a brand new car.
She attributed her success to the centre. Quite a number of our past learners come back to say thank you,” says Lekgetho. He says the success of the centre lies in the way they teach: “I get my learners to take control of the teaching process. I use a simple, down-to-earth approach to develop trust between them and myself. To me this is the best method.”
Zibi Raymond Belani
Ponelopele Abet Centre
Zibi Raymond Belani had to overcome many difficulties to become the manager of the Ponelopele Abet Centre.
He served time in jail, where he came to realise that many of young people could not read or write. On his release, he was determined to get involved in education.
“I felt strongly that there has to be an intervention by teaching them basic writing and reading skills,” says Belani. Four years later, he provides direction and leadership, ensures the curriculum is implemented and looks after the needs and welfare of the learners.
The centre offers academic, vocational and skills programme to accommodate the needs of both adult and young learners. “The content of our programmes is informed by the needs of our learners. Most adults just want to know how to read and write, while youths want to improve their matric results or learn vocational skills to improve their chances to gain employment or set up their own projects.
So our centre makes sure we tailor our programmes to meet the needs and expectations of the learners,” says Belani. He has learners take a placement test before formal enrolment in order to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses.
“The result of the test helps us determine how we can help them realise their objectives.” Belani never hesitates in using his personal funds to help his learners with school-related tasks. When they do not have a copy of a textbook he goes out of his way to make them photocopies.
Belani says the centre has consistently been producing a pass rate of between 80% and 90% and this has led to high learner enrolment. “We are like an oasis and everybody wants to be associated with our centre,” he says. Belani’s interaction with learners does not end once they have left the centre. He remains in touch with them to provide the necessary support and motivation to succeed.