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World Teachers Day 2020: Five Ways UWC Is Empowering Educators

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

As former president Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” That’s why the University of the Western Cape has made it our mission to empower educators to help learners be all they can be.

(Published - 5 October 2020)

As former president Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” World Teachers Day is a chance to celebrate society’s educators, show our appreciation for all they do, and reflect on how we can make their jobs better - and that’s something the University of the Western Cape (UWC) believes in very strongly.. 

“While our country struggles with the challenges of COVID-19, we must not forget that there are other challenges on the horizon,” said Professor Vuyokazi Nomlomo, Dean of UWC’s Faculty of Education. “To face those head-on, we will need to educate new generations of leaders who have the skills and passion to tackle those problems. For that, we need our teachers to have the resources, training and support to be the best educators they can be.”

In honour of World Teachers’ Day 2020, here are five ways UWC has been helping to transform teaching and empower educators.

1. Better Numbers - Improving Maths & Science Education: Science and mathematics matter - but South Africa’s high school results in those subjects haven’t been very strong. That’s why UWC’s Science Learning Centre for Africa (SLCA) is promoting a culture of mathematics and science through, tutorial programmes; science teacher development, science competitions and science clubs; their Women in Mathematics programme; and by constructing dozens of state-of-the art science labs for deserving schools. And UWC has one of the largest and most productive Schools of Science and Mathematics Education in South Africa, helping to produce scientifically ;literate educators to guide the STEM champions of tomorrow.
   
2. Local Is Lekker - Indigenous Knowledge & Language Education: South Africa has 11 national languages – but nine of these are not used effectively as a medium of instruction in schools, leaving many learners at a distinct disadvantage. To address this challenge, the UWC is establishing a Centre for African Language Teaching, with a special focus on isiXhosa. And long before the current discussions about decolonising higher education, UWC was already at the forefront of the investigation of the importance and relevance of indigenous knowledge systems, and their application in education, with the Science and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (SIKS) programme that aims to generate curricula that can reframe the critical interests of indigenous peoples, making science relevant to students outside of the West.
   
3. Exploring E-Learning & Transforming Teaching: Long before lockdown, UWC lecturers have been exploring the possibilities of e-learning. But they haven’t had to do it alone - they’ve had a secret weapon. The Centre for Innovative Education & Communication Technologies (CIECT) has ensured the implementation of a sustainable support structure even during the national lockdown, in order for staff and students to engage in remote teaching, learning and assessment. When lecturers need assistance with the design and development of their online environments - including the use of various eTools within iKamva, embedding digital media components, or making use of discussion forums for communication and assessment purposes - the CIECT team lends a hand.
   
4. Developing Exemplary Educators & Legendary Lecturers: Universities aren’t just places where students sit in lecture theatres and listen to lecturers talk (though that is an important part of it sometimes). They’re also places where new techniques are explored that make teaching and learning simpler, faster and more effective. To be an effective lecturer, one has to be willing to do some learning as well - which is why UWC’s Directorate of Teaching and Learning provides pedagogical support, materials and development for lecturers and tutors.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ And those efforts are paying off: over the last decade, no fewer than ten UWC lecturers have received HELTASA National Excellence in Teaching and Learning awards for their innovative and effective educational techniques. 
   
5. COVID-19 & Education Research: Never Waste a Crisis: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all facets of our lives - and that certainly includes education. Teachers have been presented with many challenges, and have had to explore a variety of new learning and teaching strategies to try to cope. But these challenges have also provided us with an important opportunity for critical reflection - and UWC researchers have risen to the occasion, exploring new methods of assessment, new teaching technologies (from interactive learning environments to virtual labs), producing new educational tools like innovative maths workbooks, and even reexamining the fundamentals of education.

There’s so much more to learn about learning and teaching at UWC. Why not find out about some of our own excellent educators? Or explore the Institute for Post-Schools Studies (IPSS), providing adult and vocational education for lifelong learners? And did you know that UWC is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year?

 

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