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What’s Going On… #CelebritiesAreNotTeachers

Opinion Piece by Lindiwe Karosa

The Department of Basic Education has resorted to online lessons for school children, to assist them in learning whilst at home. This partnership with MsZora, an online education platform by Africa Teen Geeks and the Sasol Foundation has recently been met with great criticism as some celebrities have been enlisted as facilitators of a few of these sessions. The quality of South Africa’s basic education has always been a cause for concern, which raises the question of how a responsibility of this magnitude was handed to celebrities who are not qualified to teach.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Lockdown Digital School initiative has rubbed South Africans up the wrong way after a screen recording of Mohale Motaung-Mhlongo, husband to socialite Somizi Mhlongo, went viral on social media.

In this lesson for Grade 11s, Motaung-Mhlongo first describes acronyms and abbreviations as “short words that are used to modify our nouns”. He continues to give learners the example “I’m sitting quickly” and refers to ‘quickly’ as the adjective that describes the “noun” ‘sitting’.

Needless to say, Twitter did not waste the opportunity to school the “teacher”. If you haven’t realised what’s wrong with his statement, I’ll break it down for you later but first, let’s try to understand how an unqualified celebrity was given the responsibility to teach a very critical subject to our next group of matriculants.

What I’ve understood from Africa Teen Geeks’ website is that teachers have been invited to apply to offer their services to assist children with catching-up. These teachers are expected to be school teachers (between grades R-12) who have knowledge of the country’s Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) and to also have reliable internet connection.

Applications were to be made through 40-second video clip submissions where teachers would explain why they would like to be a part of the initiative and if selected, applicants would be compensated. Furthermore, a number of public figures were chosen as digital readers of the e-learning materials.

Africa Teen Geeks released a statement yesterday in which it explains that Motaung-Mhlongo is a student teacher and that they’re in possession of his proof of registration to confirm this. Still, I must say, even student teachers are supervised, trained and moderated by qualified teachers during their practicals, and are less likely to be given a class as senior as that of Grade 11s.

Parents are reliant on the DBE for information and resources that will assist the learners to continue with their school work at home. If the DBE accredits this learning platform and endorses it’s content, surely one would expect it to moderate the process to ensure that all lessons are in line with the curriculum.

It’s quite difficult to accept that this occurrence is in fact true. Perhaps just like me, you’re hoping to hear that this screen recording is doctored and has been published to tarnish this beautiful initiative. Until such a time, we need to digest that there are learners who participated in this lesson and have learnt what is seemingly wrong.

Be that as it may, the government should consider the sensitivity surrounding the schooling of young children and the importance of imparting true knowledge especially in the English subject. Passing, or failing, English dictates any learner’s educational future – we can’t award this responsibility as we would award any tender.

Although I’m quite far from being a teacher, let alone an English one, here’s my breakdown of how the cringeworthy “I’m sitting quickly” example should have been explained.
​would be the noun, ​am sitting i​ s the verb and ​quickly i​ s the adverb. The sentence should then read ​‘I am quickly sitting’​.

This initiative is absolutely necessary, however the execution in this instance is quite poor. What do you think the next step for the DBE should be?

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