Covid-19 disrupted our lives in ways we never anticipated. For schools, it meant coming up with creative ways to support their pupils academically, emotionally and even financially in order for them to be able to complete the school year. In many instances, teachers went far beyond the call of duty, bearing personal burdens to assist pupils.
Similarly, many classes launched charity initiatives to help those whose personal and financial circumstances were severely affected by lockdown restrictions.
We asked you to nominate these superheroes in your communities who went above and beyond to make sure the school year wasn't lost.
Out of the hundreds of nominations we received, we chose five finalists in each category: Super School, teacher and class. Today, after thousands of votes were tallied, we announce the winners in these three categories. Congratulations to the winners, who showed us once again why our schools are the backbone of our country.
Apex High School, a no-fee, dual-medium school in Eerste River, Cape Town, that partnered with Acorn Education, a non-profit organisation, proactively tackled concerns around ways to keep their pupils connected and motivated to learn from home.
On 31 March, Apex Virtual High School launched via Facebook groups. The school operated on an eight hours a day, four day week learning schedule and used the same format as in-person lessons. To keep pupils engaged in this new virtual classroom, the lessons integrated Facebook features like polls, short videos and photos.
To solve the challenge of devices, Apex conducted a survey to determine what devices pupils had available at home. The survey showed that 90% of households had a device that a pupil could use. For those families that did not have access to a device, the team identified suitable low-cost smartphones at a cost of R290 and provided them on loan. The school found a way to push data to each pupil every morning and to dramatically reduce data usage to just three megabytes per lesson, educating pupils for a week with the same amount of data that would typically be used for a one-hour Zoom meeting.
Karla Swart teaches drama and is head of the arts department at Willowridge High School in Pretoria.
She started an Angels Programme at the school to support pupils with financial needs. Through the programme, staff members volunteer to anonymously adopt a pupil or two and care for them by providing them with basic needs and gifts, such as school supplies, money for excursions, data, groceries, personal hygiene products, birthday presents, blankets, pyjamas and other thoughtful gifts.
This is all provided for out of their own pockets. Swart also made considerable donations to the school's feeding scheme, including fresh produce, soup, pasta and 100 loaves of bread per week.
When the matrics finally returned to school, it was not without some fear and apprehension. Swart made each one of them a hand-sewn mask in the school colours and embroidered their names on each.
When a teacher at Cornwall Hill College in Irene, Pretoria, challenged the matric class to do something for those in need during the lockdown, they sprang into action.They identified the Ditshego House of Laughter, a non-profit organisation in Centurion that takes care of children and babies when their parents aren't able to.
Head boy Matthew Andrews and head girl Patricia Chaminuka organised a food and clothing drive and after getting off to a steady start, ramped up their efforts considerably when the school's staff decided to take part in the efforts and challenged the students.
A number of matrics were identified to provide drop-off points and the pupils made a Google map, which included a pinned location for every drop-off point. This was sent to all matric pupils so that everyone knew where their closest drop-off point was.
Andrews and Chaminuka also set up a spreadsheet to track all donations, complete with goals to be reached for each item. Every morning they set up a graph to illustrate how far they were from reaching their goals.The class was able to collect 1 375 kg of food, clothes, shoes and other necessities to donate to Ditshego House.
- Read all the finalists' stories here.
- We've been blown away by the commitment and hard work of our teachers. Even in the most difficult circumstances, they showed up for their pupils every day. See the list of special mentions that celebrate the work of schools and teachers.