The National Teaching Awards (NTA) is part of the Teacher Appreciation and Support Programme (TASP) which was launched by the Minister of Basic Education in 2015. The major goal of TASP programme is to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the teacher excellence in diverse contexts. The programme was conceptualised in 2000 by the former Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal.
The NTA now enters its twenty first (21st) year of implementation. This edition will be conducted in a period where the country is confronted with a major pandemic of Covid-19, which has paralyzed the schooling system and the economy in many different ways. Funding for prizes for the awards has proved to be more challenging, given the negative impact COVID has had on the economy. Hence, the Department has had to be innovative in finding new ways to incentivize and appreciate teachers resulting in a reimagined NTA.
The Department of Basic Education in South Africa has developed meaningful partnerships with its international counterparts and this has assisted the South Africa to make inroads into various key achievements in actualizing, implementing and realizing its sector priorities. It is therefore imperative that the Department build on these partnerships especially with regard to the National Teaching Awards which aims to participate globally in the 21st year of implementation.
The objectives of the Ministry of Basic Education through the National Teaching Awards are to:
- Focus public attention on the positive aspects of Basic Education, thereby raising the public image of the teaching profession;
- Recognise, appreciate and promote excellence in teaching performance;
- Honour dedicated creative and effective teachers and schools;
- Encourage best practice in schools;
- Provide the South African teachers an opportunity to compete with the best teachers in Africa and globally through the African Union (AU) Teacher Prize, the Commonwealth Education Award and the Global Teacher Prize (GTP); and
- Afford South Africans the opportunity to publicly say thank you to all outstanding teams or individual teachers in all schools.
The Re-imagined National teaching Awards
Consistent recognition of teachers for excellence in the classroom has a direct influence on their continuous performance and assists in ensuring that learners in South African classrooms are exposed to enabling environments where they can develop the skills and competencies needed in the global sphere.
It is for this reason that the 21st edition of the NTA is benchmarked against the world wide teacher awards/prizes’ strategies adopted from the African Union Teacher Prize, Commonwealth Education Awards and the Global Teacher Prize which is a US$1,000,000 award that aims at recognising the importance of the teaching profession and promote excellence in teaching. The prize is provided annually by the Varkey Foundation. In adopting the characteristics of the Global Teacher Prize the DBE will be able to reach a broader audience of teachers.
This is not the first year of benchmarking the NTA’s against international standards and as a result in 2020 two teachers from Limpopo participated in the international awards where Ms Cynthia Mokhudu was nominated as a top ten finalist in the Global Teacher Prize and Mrs Bridget Sinyosi became the first place winner in the African Union Teacher Prize.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Department of Basic Education cannot host the NTA awards 2021 edition as it did in previous years. However, plans are underway to host a hybrid event for the 21st edition of the NTA on the 5th of October 2021 during National Teachers' month. The event will be limited to the attendance of the top three winners in each province, sponsors, senior education officials key stakeholders.
Hence, the reimagined NTA which has been tailored differently and these additional models has been infused including adherence to the COVID-19 protocols and alert levels.
The reimagined NTA fourteen (14) categories. The list of categories is as follows:
- National Best Teacher Award: This award will honour the best teachers/principal who will represent South Africa in the Global Teacher Award. The teacher will embody the skills which focuses more on transforming the lives of learners and the community. Those skills will include the introduction of digital learning tools, ensuring that all children have access to quality education, and initiated environmental and other projects.
- S/Hero Awards: The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has been touched by the selfless acts of in teaching during the pandemic including the integration of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) skills: Despite all the unprecedented challenges, there have been outstanding teachers and principals who compromised their health and assisted learners who could not access virtual learning.
- National Learner Award: The award will be a sister award to the National Teacher Award as it intends to celebrate and compliment a full-time learner (GET /FET) who is involved in a community development project.
- Kader Asmal Excellence Award: Seeks to recognise any person involved in the education sector or involved in education who, in their work, demonstrate the key values that were a hallmark of Prof Asmal ‘s leadership
- LifeTime Achievement Award: Nominees must have worked as a teacher in a public school and/or centre in South Africa and worked for a minimum of thirty (30) years without a break in service.
- Excellence in Grade R Teaching
- Excellence in Primary School Teaching
- Excellence in Secondary School Teaching
- Excellence in Primary School Leadership
- Excellence in Secondary School Leadership
- Excellence in Special Needs Teaching
- Excellence in Teaching Mathematics (FET)
- Excellence in Teaching Physical Sciences (FET)
- Excellence in Technology–Enhanced, Teaching and Learning Award
The nomination/selection process
The nomination process of teachers starts at schools where the schools’ nomination teams select teachers for the various categories. The names of the selected teachers are forwarded to the districts that select district winners, through a process of adjudication.
The final phase is the selection of national winners by a national adjudication panel. After the national winners are selected, a national ceremony which is hosted by the Minister of Basic Education and addressed by the President of the Republic of South Africa where the national winners are announced.