Thousands of teachers filled the Sandton Convention Centre’s Pavillion room on Saturday afternoon to take part in the 18th annual National Teaching Awards (NTAs) festivities.
The NTAs are the equivalent of the Oscars except, in this case, teachers are the stars of the night. Finalists from the 11 awards categories turned up dressed in their finest to celebrate the winners and the teaching profession in general.
The venue was tastefully festooned with an assortment of colours and the lighting also created a matching magical and electric ambience. Teachers were serenaded with soulful music by various school traditional dancing groups, Afro Tenors, and solo opera artists backed by a live orchestra band.
Virtually every speaker who took to the podium heaped praises on teachers and underlining the role they play in guiding and nurturing young minds through their selflessness and passion for education.
SABC recorded the proceedings for later broadcast with a 702 radio personality, Kelebogile Mabotja and SABC2’s Morning Live host, Leanne Manas, compering.
The event was graced by high profile politicians, dignitaries and education officials including; Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, her Deputy, Enver Surty, Director-General, Mathanzima Mweli; Louise Asmal, Graca Machel, the Nelson Mandela
Foundation, the Sisulu family, OR Tambo Foundation and the Tambo family, Members of the Portfolio Committee and the Select Committee and Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi and his Western Cape counterpart, Debbie Schaffer.
In her welcome address, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, noted the fact that the awards “mark an important milestone in the calendar of her department”. Said Motshekga: “Through these awards, we acknowledge and encourage dedicated and caring teachers in their efforts to develop each learner, in the basic education system, to be a true and complete citizen of the democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.”
She said the awards are not a stand-alone project but are an integral part of the department’s named, Teacher Appreciation and Support (TASP), which is aimed at ensuring that the celebration of teachers is not a once off event.
In fact, said Motshekga, the National Teachers’ Awards (NTAs) should be considered as an act of restitution. “Through this prestigious event we pay homage to the men and women whose selfless dedication to the profession of teaching outshines the rest,” said Motshekga, adding teachers are in the frontline of the war against ignorance, poverty and backwardness.
They are the torchbearers of hope and light, continued Motshekga, saying “Without the teaching profession there would be no other profession”.
Motshekga said teachers are the backbone of any functional democratic society. She applauded teachers for having achieved a lot of milestones despite the huge challenges the country and the basic education system faces. Some of the challenges, include but not limited to, increased levels of poverty, unemployment, violence and abuse of all forms, lack of proper infrastructure especially in rural communities, low morale and societal ills, all of which affect the learning and teaching outcomes in our basic education system.
She told the packed venue that awards take place in the context of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Nelson Mandela. “As we confront the challenges of the present we continue to draw lessons and inspiration from his life. We shall use this historic occasion to unite, rebuild and renew the basic education sector, so that it can leapfrog into the 4th Industrial Revolution, said Motshekga.
She said Mandela dedicated his life to the betterment of the children of South Africa including building “more state-of-the-art schools while President of the Republic of South Africa”.
As we celebrate Madiba’s achievements as a freedom fighter, a leader, a democrat, and the founding father of our modern nation, said Motshekga, we must among others, all agree that basic education is at the heart of building a South African nation build on the principles of Ubuntu and social cohesion; and that the teaching profession plays a pivotal role in building a cohesive society. We dare not fail, said Motshekga.
Winners of the each category drove away with brand new Renault Kwid cars, courtesy of the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Runners-up also scooped some cash prizes such as ICT training vouchers and ICT packages sponsored by Avob, Future Foundations, SchoolNet, Via Afrika and Vodacom Foundation.