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Celebrating Our Educators on International Women’s Day!

Written by Melody Triumph
In honour of International Women’s Day, we are celebrating some of our brilliant women educators who have been champions of our programmes and who have delivered crucial training and resources to enhance education for the children we support.
In this blog, we interview two teachers from our EdTech Programme at Rainbow Primary School in South Africa and explore their perspectives on the importance and impact women have in education and particularly, for girls’ education.
Mandisa is the Foundation Phase (Grade R-3) Head of Department and she teaches Grade 3. She has been teaching for 22 years. 
Sharmee is also a Grade 3 teacher and she has been teaching for 7 years. 
As a woman and educator, why is International Women’s Day so important?

Mandisa: Since 1994 [when Apartheid ended in South Africa], women have been given the chance to lead and have leadership skills as a woman. In our classes, you can see the difference when a woman is present. When women become involved, you’ll notice the difference in how children learn.
 
Sharmee: In my opinion, it is very important to celebrate and to show the girls that there is appreciation for all women. As a mother, I know that being a mother is a thankless job and goes without appreciation. We ask ourselves the question: what are we doing this for? We need to celebrate women in many ways and to let girls know that all the hard work we put in is not going unnoticed. 
Also, all children grow exponentially in the classroom because of a woman’s touch. What we provide is positive reinforcement. 
 
How do you empower the girls you teach?
 
Mandisa: Firstly, we are laying the foundation for young girls. I remind them that their respect goes a long way because ‘you must respect yourselves so that others respect you.’ And beyond that it is important to respect their parents and teachers and every adult.  
I also emphasise education and how it can open doors and change their situation. They have the opportunity to change the situation they are in. To do that, they must try their hardest, come to school every day and listen to the teacher. 
Finally, I encourage them to be independent and to think and know things for themselves. We’re not all going to get married, that’s the reality for the girls here. 
 
Sharmee: I love to teach my girls that the way you treat the world is how they treat you. Our girls come from different backgrounds, and some of them aren’t used to certain things. I try to teach them the values of self love and I use my personal experiences from my past to help them. I explain to them how to get to a point to change your life with education and empower yourself with knowledge. I also talk about how I’m going to lift myself out and lift my family up outside of school and how they can too. 
 
How has the Breteau Foundation’s work at Rainbow Primary changed education for girls?
 
Mandisa: It was a great pleasure for us to have those tablets because our area is poor. The tablets open up their minds to what’s happening in the world. We want our girls to be leaders of the future and for them to be able to do this, they need to know how to work with technology and develop those skills so that they can get jobs. 
The tablets also improve their focus, engagement and learning. It makes education for them easier and enjoyable. Alos, the girls end up taking these skills home and sharing their knowledge and experience with their parents. A lot of our parents at home don’t have cell phones and don’t know how to move from one app to another app. Our country is very behind in technology and our girls are helping by sharing their newly learned technology skills which helps us all move in a positive direction. 

Sharmee: We are living in a technological era. Moving forward, everything involves technology and in my opinion, the booming IT industry is very male dominated. We need to educate our girls with technology, how they can make money and what will sustain them in the future so that they can take part in the new world of work. Breteau Foundaton’s EdTech programme helped teach our girls how to do this. Being able to work on something as simple as a tablet empowers you to work on other things like computers, laptops and understand how things like programming work. Even though we aren’t doing that now, moving into a technological future means we need to empower and teach our girls to do these things. The Breteau Foundation allows us to prepare girls for this future.
We continue to recognise the importance of women like Mandisa and Sharmee in our programmes as they continue to remind us of the impact that they can make in how children learn and also, in preparing our girls for their futures. These two women are generous, committed and caring and whose investment in girls’ education has allowed the Breteau Foundation to empower girls and children with backgrounds and identities that may make access to education more difficult.
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