The passion and subject knowledge to reach each child and inspire them to become life-long learners and academic achievers are what sets true teachers apart from mere educators.
Mr Andrew Mpofu, a teacher for Grade 6 Mathematics at the Funda UJabule Primary School; a joint project between the Gauteng Department of Education and the University of Johannesburg (UJ), is a typical example of someone who pushes the boundaries of discovery and progress in the classroom forward. He was recently honoured by the Gauteng Department of Education as the Best Grade 6 Mathematics Teacher in the Johannesburg Central District.
This recognition reflects Mr Mpofu’s creative contributions towards the subject knowledge and methods of teaching and assessment. He pointed out that one needs to understand the children. “You must know how to identify individual children’s strengths and know how to assist the children if they struggle.”
The Funda UJabule (isiZulu, meaning “learn and be happy”) Primary School at the University’s Soweto Campus is a teacher education and research facility that aims to bridge the divide between theory and practice and is marked as one of the most exciting developments in South Africa’s teacher education.
The Funda UJabule School opened its doors in 2010, with two grade R (reception year) classes offering education to 200 children in either English and isiZulu, or English and Sesotho. Since its establishment, the School has grown into a fully-fledged primary school. Furthermore, research is conducted in a multifaceted inquiry, in which the children’s cognitive development, their performance in mathematics, their linguistic competence in the two languages, their literacy development in the languages, as well as their learning of science are captured in standardised and custom designed instruments.
Prof Sarah Gravett, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University points out that it is hugely important to focus on the early years of schooling because this is the time in which foundation of learning is laid.
The staff at Funda UJabule, with the guidance of UJ lecturers, become adjunct teacher educators to the University’s students. Thus, students, the School’s staff and the lecturers collaborate in this integrated project of teacher education,” says Prof Gravett.
Mr Mpofu concludes: “I believe that teachers need to have strong grounding in numeracy and languages. This equip teachers to teach in a multilingual settings to ensure that all aspects are covered thoroughly so that the learners can understand the concepts and apply the knowledge.”