School teacher's desk. Picture: THE TIMES
School teacher's desk. Picture: THE TIMES

A South African teacher and principal who retired this year from traditional classroom teaching and went into digital online teaching is ending her year with world recognition.

Until recently, Phuti Ragophala taught economics and management sciences and technology at the Pula Madibogo Primary School in Polokwane. On Wednesday, she was included in the top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize for 2017.

Now in its third year‚ the $1m award is the largest prize of its kind.

Saying she was "feeling blessed" and "Proudly South African"‚ Ragophala posted a message to her supporters on her Facebook wall as congratulatory messages poured in.

"I am still Phuti Ragophala. Those who want to know how I did it‚ I am available to share‚ assist‚ inspire so that come next year‚ you stand a better chance to be where I am now‚" she said.

In another message‚ she said: "I attended many educational conferences ... I learnt a lot. It’s time to share with other educators and inspire them to have voice in their work. I learnt that challenges in teaching and learning can be solved by teachers‚ not directors in high echelons."

Congratulatory messages also came in from Sechaba Nkoana‚ who Facebooked her to say: "Keep it up, Phuti Ragophala. You have proven beyond reasonable doubt that teaching is a calling." Abiodun Awonuga said: "I’ve said time and again: the sky is not your limit, ma’m. Keep rising. You are a hope and an immense inspiration."

The top 50 were shortlisted from more than 20‚000 nominations and applications from 179 countries. The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on March 19 2017.

Ragophala was noticed for her work in her poor semirural area. The citation states: "Instead of turning children away if their parents are unable to pay for classes‚ she has managed to empower parents by employing them in the running of the school‚ giving children opportunities they would not have otherwise had.

"She has also worked hard to open up the world to her students‚ integrating both biology and technology into her teaching‚ and has been recognised for this by Microsoft‚ her government and other organisations."

The Global Teacher Prize is part of the Varkey Foundation’s commitment to improve the status of teachers and to honour teachers who make an outstanding contribution to the profession.

TMG Digital

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