Through introducing projects that promote teaching as an aspirational career, the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship aims to improve the quality of education in South Africa.
The Jakes Gerwel Fellowship (JGF) is focusing on improving the poor conditions in public schools across South Africa by introducing uplifting leadership programs and investing in students who have a passion for teaching and education.
Jakes Gerwel is a fellowship that has been mandated by the then Allan Gray Orbis Foundation since 2017, aiming to improve the education system. JGF hopes to position teaching as an aspirational career for young students to promote an increase in employment of quality teachers in public schools.
South Africa’s education system has been declining, with young people struggling to read for comprehension. Only 20% of public schools function adequately with a large gap between the final matric results they achieve compared to those of the other 80% of public schools.
Many of these schools fail due to poor infrastructure, teacher shortages, and a lack of educational progress, resulting in high unemployment rates. “Unemployment amongst the youth in our country is the highest [and] amongst graduates, teachers have the highest unemployment, especially Bed [bachelor of education] graduates,” says JGF fellow Samora Menze.
JGF hopes to bridge this gap with strategic communications specialist Sarah Koopman telling Wits Vuvuzela that, “The quality of the education system is dependent on the quality of its teachers.” JGF has identified the teacher shortage in South Africa as one of utmost importance for our economy to thrive.
JGF program participants are selected based off their “expert teacher profile, educational leadership, and educational entrepreneurial skills,” says acting CEO Carla Watson. Wits University is a partner institution of JGF, offering scholarships and bursaries to strong student candidates who are completing their postgraduate certificates of education (PGCE).
One of the initiatives JGF has chosen to take on is the employment support and work readiness program which began at the end of 2022 and will continue throughout the 2023 year. This project aims to support teachers who are qualified but are not equipped with enough information on how to find employment after graduating.
This involves helping candidates with their CV, setting up mock interviews to equip them with valuable interview skills, hosting South African Council of Educators (SACE) registration information sessions, and sharing employment opportunities with candidates so they can access teaching positions easier. This program aims to help teachers find employment, taking preference over government school positions by placing teachers in these schools, hoping to “make resources available to maximise JGF’s impact, connecting with organisations that are contributing to address unemployment in the country,” Menze said.
JGF is also working on other projects such as using theatre to improve reading literacy. A Wits master’s student and JGF fellow, Luna August, co-founded the AK Arts and Leadership program (AKALA) which is a non-profit organization focused on increasing art education throughout South Africa. August’s research focuses on the importance of the arts in education.
August is hoping to improve literacy rates in the country with over 80% of children in the country struggling to read. August’s research focuses on how drama can help improve student’s reading and listening abilities and vocal acquisition. She goes on to explain how drama in education holds value because it has been recognised as a decolonising pedagogy through embodied drama strategies in classrooms.
August explains that by implementing certain drama-education strategies such as role-playing and improvisation, students can benefit from enhanced reading abilities but can also develop their creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. AKALA’s goal is to launch an art centre that is registered with the education department that allows for dialogic theoretical engagement, critical reflexivity, and artistic development through increased learning in the arts disciplines.
JGF hopes to recruit more fellows from universities throughout South Africa who have a strong passion and love for education and invites the “very best” to teach South Africa’s future generations because all students deserve a “switched-on, compassionate and excellent teacher to help unlock their own potential,” says Watson.
Students who are choosing to complete their postgraduate certificate of education can apply for the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship online by completing an eligibility quiz and filling in an application form.
FEATURED IMAGE: The Jakes Gerwel team at a #BeATeacher event in South Africa, promoting teaching as an aspirational career. Photo: Supplied.
- Wits Vuvuzela, Success can be engineered through holistic education, June 2022.
- Wits Vuvuzela, Quality education is key to solving youth unemployment, August 2022.
- Wits Vuvuzela, Education school eases first-year stress over looming June exams, June, 2022.