SchoolNet is pleased to present the profile of Mrs Nhanha Tyembile, Principal of Zamuxolo Primary School. Mrs Tyembile progressed rapidly in her technological and pedagogical journey from zero to hero in the space of two years; from being a novice in using learning technologies, Mrs Thyembile progressed to becoming a Senior Trainer in the ICT4RED project known as TECH4RED. Her colleagues in the project from both the CSIR and SchoolNet attribute her impressive successes in the field to her dedication and her ability to motivate and enthuse her teaching staff.
Tell us something about yourself
I am Nomonde Laurretta Tyembile, married, and a mother to two handsome men aged 27 and 21. I am the principal of Zamuxolo Junior Secondary School in the Nciba Circuit at the Cofimvaba District in the Eastern Cape Department of Education.Currently I also teach Technology and Economic Management Sciences to Grades 7-9 and IsiXhosa Home Language to Grades 8 and 9.
I joined the institution in 1993 when the curriculum was extended to Standard 5 (now called Grade 7), and I became the Deputy Principal in 1996. Then in 2000 I was promoted as Principal taking over the reins from the former principal who passed away in 1997. Currently we have a staff of 12 educators teaching Grades R-9 with an enrolment of 389 learners. I strongly believe that I was destined to be at this school despite the many challenges that our school is faced with.
Are you involved in any social networks?
I participate in the social networks Twitter, WhatsApp, Hangouts and Google+.
What are your thoughts about education?
Managing and teaching, believe me, is not an easy task at all, because on daily basis one has to deal with different personalities, divergent attitudes, educators, learners and parents as well.
The school also involves the community, so one has to have the will, the way and the strength to deal with such issues. I feel I am able to deal with all the three components because of my conduct; my personal behaviour is naturally disciplined with high moral standards. It is based on my home background and thus I am able to withstand any challenges from each day. However, believe me, I cry a lot’ when I am at home, to ease the load of hectic and bad days, and also to be ready for the next day.
Coming to daily teaching and learning activities, one has an obligation to be a mentor, supporter, caregiver as well as nurturing to those who might have social problems. I am also a disciplinarian but very kind in my approach. This I do because life does not end in one place; it means, therefore, that learners must be prepared to face the world. Disciplining is not easy but by not talking too much I find it helps.
I am very passionate about my career because of the exposure to different family backgrounds that are portrayed by both educators and learners, thus making it easy to understand each and every one. I am able to handle social issues such as taking care of the needy learners. It is because of this quiet dedication, I think, that I was nominated for the award for Primary School Leadership at the semi-finals of the National Teacher Awards at the Provincial level last year 2014.
How have you been involved in the CSIR’s ICT4RED project in Cofimvaba?
I am known worldwide by my nickname of as Nhanha because of my efforts and inputs in the ICT4RED project.
Our school was one of the first participants in the training in 2013-2014. Out of the 11 schools in the second phase training, we were taught the skills and strategies on how to use tablets to enhance teaching and learning, so that learners can acquire the 21st Century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication. During graduation on 21 June 2014, there were 80% of us at Zamuxolo Primary school who achieved merit certificates. This achievement was through the support I gave as the ICT co-ordinator of the school and we were nominated without any doubts by the staff from all the 11 schools. I was the top achiever. That is when I gained popularity in the Province and achieved recognition from the CSIR and SchoolNet. Hence I am presently a senior facilitator in the 3rd phase training of the remaining schools of the Nciba circuit.
Have you always been interested in using technology in education?
To be honest, I had very little knowledge about technology before the project started. Slowly I gained more and more skills and confidence in between the training sessions. Believe me, God created quite a ‘unique’ individual in me because I am good at whatever I do. I am so thankful to Him for the strength and willingness to work towards achieving good results in all the duties given to me.
How do you use tablets at your school?
The learners in school are so excited by being able to use tablets during their lessons and it helps them engage more readily in classes. We use a structured approach to incorporating the tablets in the classroom for various reasons. Although children pick-up technology skills quickly, exposure to technology differs between learners because of their home circumstances. For instance, some of the older brothers or sisters of our learners are at Phase 1 schools, where tablets are used, and others are exposed to sophisticated mobile phones in their households. However, not all children have such opportunities outside school, so we ensure that each learner can keep up, regardless of their previous exposure. We use the tablets for specific learning activities, to avoid the temptation of learners not focusing on their lessons when they have the tablets. We use the applications on the tablets and combine them with the teaching strategies we learnt in the TECH4RED programme with more traditional approaches.
In junior schools we also need to have a well-organised system to control the use of the tablets. We have 150 tablets, 10 Mobicharge kits, (to charge the tablets) a server on which our shared content is stored and WiFi that provides coverage to most classrooms. We operate a booking system, with a log book that records when tablets are used in a class and their condition when they are returned.
What would you like to see happening using technology in education?
I have developed a passion for ICT in schools and I see myself as a lifelong learner. I believe that integrating technology in teaching and learning is important in preparing young people for competency in the outside world. Part of competency in the world is being able to be a lifelong learner. Sometimes when the CSIR researchers present the project to a wider audience overseas, they describe me as an example. In fact, the CSIR invited me to present a short report on the effect of the TECH4RED project to Magwaza Msibi, Deputy Minister of Science of Technology.
Being able to be a lifelong learner has opened up several interesting opportunities for me. For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to attend the EdTechTeam South Africa Summit hosted by SchoolNet and featuring Google for Education. CSIR sponsored several teachers from the Eastern Cape to attend the Summit, which was held at Dainfern College, in Johannesburg.
Education can change how rural people live. Our area has a very high unemployment rate and a low literacy rate. Yet, our community has produced lawyers, engineers and an IT specialist who work across South Africa. This shows how, through hard work, we can always do better. The same is true for technology. As I said to my Grade 7 learners when they used tablets in their technology class, technology is about skills and we must practice to become skilled in new ways of doing things. We cannot get anywhere if we are too ashamed to practice.
I am hoping that this project can spread throughout the country for the benefit of those previously disadvantaged learners in rural schools.