23 October 2013 Volume :1 Issue :8

Rural Teacher Education Project students leave their mark

Rural Teacher Education Project students leave their mark
The 2013 cohort of BEd students with project leaders Professor Relebohile Moletsane (front, right), Dr Tabitha Mukeredzi (front, left,) and Ms Doreen Zinhumwe (PhD Intern).

A cohort of 14 student teachers bid an emotional farewell to the staff and learners of two public schools in rural Vulindela where they spent four weeks of their residential practicum as part of the School of Education’s Rural Teacher Education Project (RTEP).

This 2013 cohort of BEd student teachers left an indelible mark at the schools – a former Catholic combined school now running as two public schools: Langsyde Primary and Pope John Paul II Secondary. Six of the student teachers were in the primary school and eight were in the secondary school. Through their own initiative, student teachers sourced a variety of teaching and learning resources to donate to the schools.

The resources included books, maps and equipment and toys for the foundation phase (Grades R-3) classes. In addition, students bought materials and had big signposts made for both the primary and secondary schools. They also prepared and awarded their mentor teachers with certificates. The donations were handed over during colourful farewell talent shows that took place during the last two days of their teaching practice.

Not only were teachers and learners grateful for the donations, they also expressed appreciation for having student teachers in their classrooms for the four weeks and described the relationships as mutually beneficial. Many learners and teachers were seen shedding tears on the last day as they had also become attached to the student teachers.

The RTEP is a School of Education rural school-university partnership project launched in 2007 in the Vulindlela District, about 150 km south of Durban. It is led by Professor Relebohile Moletsane, the John Langalibalele Dube Chair in Rural Education, and Honorary Professors Claudia Mitchell and Naydene de Lange.

Among other goals, RTEP focuses on developing teachers for rural education by strengthening rural schools-university partnerships through a cohort approach to student teaching practice and to re-orientate teacher education within the UKZN School of Education to rural schools as major learning sites for pre-service teachers.

Since 2007, the project has taken cohorts of between 14 and 16 BEd student teachers to experience rurality in the context of their residential four-week teaching practical experience under the tutelage of in-service teachers and university lecturers. Student participation is voluntary.

The project is publicised in the School of Education and students formally apply to be considered for it. Students and field co-ordinators (appointed by project leaders and, at least one with a PhD in Teacher Education and Professional Development) are accommodated at a local guest house within close proximity to the school.

The co-ordinators help ferry student teachers to and from the school daily, typically remaining on site, providing students with support, facilitating interaction with teachers and school management and ensuring that students remain focused on their teaching. Every evening, the university staff lead students through de-briefing and collaborative reflection sessions to enhance their professional growth.

-           Tabitha Mukeredzi

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