South African pair in global teacher prize shortlist


Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – TWO South African teachers have been named in the top 50 shortlist for Varkey Foundation US$1 million Global Teacher Prize 2023.

Mokolwane Masweneng is an English teacher at Dithothwaneng Senior Secondary School, Mphanama, Limpopo. Mariette Wheeler, a science teacher at Protea Heights Academy in Cape Town, Western Cape.

They have been selected from over 7 000 nominations and applications from 130 countries around the world.

Masweneng, teaching in the rural area, has dedicated himself to promoting education, particularly for girls, in his community.

Despite facing financial challenges, he started a free tutoring programme that has since helped many students become qualified professionals. Mokolwane actively challenges cultural norms that hinder female education, addressing issues like school dropouts due to teenage pregnancy and lack of sanitary products.

He encourages girls to participate in activities traditionally dominated by boys. Through technology and international connections, he brings diverse learning experiences to his students, and he has become an advocate for integrating technology in education.

Additionally, he has initiated greening projects to combat hunger and poverty in rural areas.

Although Wheeler first trained as a biological scientist, her career has enabled her to combine her two main passions – biological research and teaching. Her teaching approach emphasises the simplest possible explanation of material.

Wheeler makes monthly record broadcasts on marine life for a local radio station, listened to by around 400 000 people. In 2021, she was named National Best Teacher and represented South Africa at the virtual UNESCO celebration of World Teacher’s Day.

If she wins the Global Teacher Prize, she will use the funds to set up a medical centre focusing on teenagers, increase her church’s efforts in sustainable community building, set up a mobile science equipment unit that can travel between schools and create a dedicated marine sciences venue.

Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, said, “I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Mokolwane Masweneng and Mariette Wheeler.”

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, also praised the pair.

“The Global Teacher Prize was launched to highlight the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to sweeping changes in technology,” Varkey added.

The shortlist will now be narrowed down to top ten finalists, to be announced later in the year. The winner will also be announced later.

– CAJ News

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