Limpopo does IT again
A Limpopo school principal, Phuti Ragophala, scooped this year’s prestigious Super Teacher Award at a ceremony held at Montecasino in Fourways, Gauteng, recently.
Ragophala beat six other finalists to become the second teacher from Limpopo province to win the award, after Melia Moeketsi did so last year.
The award ceremony, hosted by the Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA), is part of its association’s flagship initiative called Train the Teacher, which aims to “nurture high-quality” IT skills training in the country.
Teachers were invited to submit projects that could be used as tools to “promote and develop computer skills in their own schools and communities”. Ragophala’s project was judged to have fulfilled this requirement. She has also been exposed to the teacher training initiative.
Award winners receive prizes such as laptop computers, Blackberry smartphones and all-expenses-paid attendance at key IT conferences.
“I’m on top of the world,” said Ragophala. “The award makes me feel like a real superstar and it is an indication that hard work and ingenuity pay off in the end. I am really grateful to the organisers of the competition for giving us this platform to showcase projects that not only help our schools, but the broader community as well.”
The power of technology
She said she believed in the power of technology, not only for educational purposes, but for life in general. “I realise we are gradually becoming a paperless society. I make sure that my school embraces IT and we try to incorporate it into everything we do. My 32 teachers use computers to prepare lessons, enter learners’ marks and perform basic administrative duties.”
Ragophala said her 1 167 learners shared 40 computers and were showing growing confidence in using them to learn new things and do research for their academic work.
Her leadership extends beyond her school. She has started a poultry project which employs 25 community members and a food garden, all based within the school yard. The vegetables from the garden feed orphans and vulnerable learners, with some sold to generate income for the school.
“I teach the parents who work at the poultry project some basic computer skills. They have now acquired sufficient skills and can operate a computer to file, capture and record production activities and other related transactions.
“In the beginning, most of them could barely read and write and this proved to me that it is not qualifications that matter, but passion,” said Ragophala.
Two new awards were also handed out at the event: Trainer of the Year and ISPA ICT Champions. Sonnyboy Baloyi of Avuxeni Computer Academy won the former, while Barbara Heron of Parktown Boys’ High School in Johannesburg and Mmipe Mokgehle of Toronto Primary School in Limpopo won the latter.
Since its launch in 2001, the Train the Teacher programme has trained 2 238 teachers at more than 250 under-resourced and rural-based schools nationwide. A total of 26 projects were registered for the competition in the first phase of the awards.
Remarkable things unnoticed
The ISPA’s chairperson of the teacher training working group, Fiona Wallace, said she was “overawed” by the enthusiasm shown by teachers.
“This is our tenth anniversary and what we have been doing over the years was to train teachers in basic computer literacy. But in the course of this we realised there were those teachers who were doing remarkable things unnoticed, particularly in the rural parts of the country,” she said.
“These teachers display an amazing passion and most of them find themselves with no or very little support. They always go beyond the call of duty to take what we have given them to benefit their colleagues, learners and their immediate communities,” said Wallace.
Other finalists were: Thembi Mathobela, Adelaide Madiba and Alpheus Mogashoa, all from Toronto Primary School in Limpopo; Maoto Setaole of Mountainview Senior Secondary School in Limpopo; Judi Le Roux of Coffee Bay Christian Comprehensive School in the Eastern Cape and MJ Poopedi of Thokgwaneng Primary School in Limpopo.
Meanwhile, in a separate event held last month in Cape Town, Ragophala proved her technological savvy by bagging a Stars in Education award for her project for orphans and vulnerable children, which carried a prize of R10 000.
The awards are run by Argo, a multimedia communications company with a strong focus on education. Via Afrika is the sponsor while SABC’s commercial radio station, Metro FM, is a media partner.