TEACHER: Phuti Ragophala
EVEN with the best equipped schools or the best textbooks, without teachers, children won’t be able to learn and progress. This has never been more evident than during the pandemic, where many parents were forced by necessity to implement home-schooling and recognized just what a mammoth task teaching truly is.
“Nevertheless, teachers are often the unsung heroes of education, who often deal with adversity daily”, said Malcolm Mooi, founder of online professional learning community Zibuza.net. “World Teacher’s Day on October 5, is a rare opportunity to celebrate these essential members of our communities.”
A good teacher has the potential to improve the lives of their students. A great teacher has the potential to change their lives.
Phuti Ragophala – also known as ‘Techno Granny’ – is one such great teacher. Although she grew up in difficult circumstances, Phuti’s parents saw leadership and teaching talents within her and encouraged her to try to become a teacher.
Today, she is a Microsoft Innovator Educator Expert, the retired principal of a well-respected Limpopo school, and the recipient of the first-ever Zibuza.net Lifetime Achievement Award.
This award recognizes a single teacher whose vision, dedication, and commitment to teaching have made an extraordinary difference to their community.
The nickname ‘Techno Granny’ was given to Phuti by her colleagues as an acknowledgment of her passion and skills for using digital resources in teaching and learning, despite being part of the ‘Born Before Technology’ generation.
Her passion was sparked by the learning potential of using technology in the classroom.
“Skills like communication, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration and critical thinking are easily realized when using technology tools,” she explained.
Although her education was very traditional (essentially using just blackboard and chalk), Phuti has undertaken several initiatives to widen the education available to her students, that go beyond just the harnessing of technological tools. Phuti and her colleagues have also developed a permaculture garden to grow vegetables and herbs for the benefit of the poor in the community.
“This helps students acquire the desire to become scientists, farmers, and pharmacists when they see the application of what is grown in the garden and gives them access to opportunities they might not be exposed to,” said Phuti.
In her time as a principal working in a semi-rural area, most of her learners were orphans, or from families where parents are poor or ill.
Instead of turning children away if their parents are unable to pay for classes, she had managed to empower parents by employing them in the running of the school, giving their children opportunities they would not have otherwise had.
As a result of parental involvement in the school, pupil attendance was and continues to be high.
Phuti’s advice for teachers just starting out in the field:
- Embrace technology in the classroom. “Students who have been exposed to technology in the teaching process gain additional skills that help with both learning and future employment.”
- Become a teacher for the right reasons. “Teaching is not a career to escape poverty. It’s a calling. Once you are in, focus on your learners and draw your strength from them”
- Treat all your students equally but pay special attention to those with less economic advantages. “Go an extra mile to lift them up because it’s often out of the most difficult circumstances that real educated learners emerge”
- out of those poor families that’s where real educated leaders emerge.
- Recognise the privilege of your position. “Teaching allows you to groom future leaders through education. Don’t waste it.”
“Teaching gave me the chance to channel my students’ minds and talents towards a better and brighter future. I truly believe that education is a tool to fight poverty and restore dignity, and I’m grateful to Zibuza.net for their recognition of my contributions and all that they do to empower South African teachers,” Phuti concluded.