October is a month for celebrating teachers, acknowledging and honouring them for the crucial role that they play in the lives of young learners as well as for the excellent contribution that they make to society as a whole. It is also the month in which the announcement of one of South Africa’s influential teacher’s awards programme for teachers who go the extra mile on an extra-curricular basis, Stars in Education, takes place. This project, now in its sixth year, rewards teachers for their contribution in their community and celebrates ‘bright spots’ and success stories in the education landscape where teachers go above and beyond the call of duty.

Stars in Education is the brainchild of Argo, the multi-media communications company that is living its brand promise “to inform, involve and inspire”. Argo gave birth to the project in 2008 and has, in a short space of time, built a credible, recognisable and most importantly inspirational awards platform, giving credence to the everyday heroes who are guiding our youth. This vision has been made possible by the on-going support of sponsors like TSB Sugar, Hatch Goba, Mindset TV, Metro FM and SACE – companies who are themselves committed to uplifting our education system, and rewarding those who contribute to its improvement.

In 2013, the Stars in Education project has received a large amount of nominations in projects addressing a vast range of community needs.   Entries were received from all over South Africa and ranged from keeping learners fit and healthy preventing diseases through better living. Creation of local homes for vulnerable children and oprhans as well as being a community outreach hub that helps to empower the surrounding HIV/Aids-affected community. Fighting against drugs, alcohol and diseases whilst honouring cancer survivors, to a global initiative to raise awareness around the dire rhino poaching situation in South Africa. The scope of projects put forward is inspiring and showcases just how many teachers are often going above and beyond the call of duty and influencing their communities.

This year, the extremely high standard of entries made judging difficult, but in the end it was Dungile Maponyane of Bathokwa Secondary from DUNGILE TRAINING MATHS AND SCIENCE CENTRE (Mokopane, Limpopo). DTMSC is a project that offers maths, science and commerce extra classes for high school learners in Mogalakwena Municipality in the Waterberg District. Vacation camps are held for the learners all over the province. Dungile has dedicated her energy to improving maths achievement in his community; through sheer determination and persistence. She has presented papers about maths education and curriculum changes at international symposia; as well as pursuing her masters; whilst inspiring her former learners to become maths and science teachers who have subsequently returned home to assist her in running these camps.

Second place went to Ms. Mabore Lekalakala of Toronto Primary from COMPUTER ADVENTURES TO DISCOVER MATHEMATICS (Polokwane, Limpopo). Recognising how challenging mathematics was for her Grade 5 learners who are next generation learners, especially those from informal settlements with little or no parental support, Ms. Lekalakala created an environment for learners to create a fun computer learning resource that simplifies challenging maths concepts, teaching other learners how to use technology and understand mathematics. She connected to learners through modalities which engages them in learning oriented activities.

Third place went to Mr. Francis Zungu of Kearsney College, MAKAPHUTU CHILDREN’S VILLAGE (Pietermaritzburg, KZN). Makaphutu serves as a home to 51 vulnerable children and orphans, as well as being a community outreach hub that helps to empower the surrounding HIV/Aids-affected community. Francis has been instrumental in inspiring and encouraging Kearsney learners to become an integral part of Makuphutu; forging a partnership between the organisations which has changed the paradigms of Kearsney learners in the community in which the school resides. Francis’s ability to grow true servant leadership in the Kearsney learners was through activities between the school and the village and has inspired a new generation of learners with heart for community.

The Stars in Education Project would not exist if not for the many incredible teachers in our country who go above and beyond in identifying and addressing the needs within their immediate communities and in doing so, for the undeniable difference that they make to our children and to our future. Sue Fontannaz, CEO of Argo, “Argo and our valuable sponsors salute the efforts of these amazing earth angels and are committed to continue to recognise their incredible contribution to society with our Stars in Education campaign. We already look forward to 2014 and unearthing even more of the incredible projects that are being undertaken to ensure a better and brighter future for South Africa.”

IMAGE (from left to right): Tshepo Kgobe ( Executive Director of Hatch Goba), Navaneetham Ponnan (finalist), Anil Sookraj (finalist), Selvaranie Naicker (finalist), Dungile Maponyane (2013 Stars in Education Winner) and Francis Zungu (3rd place).

For more information on the Stars in Education project, contact Argo General Manager, Carol Steyn on (021) 865 2813 or mail [email protected]

You can find more on this campaign on www.ED.org.za