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UNESCO and University of Pretoria collaborate to improve information literacy of teachers

UNESCO and the University of Pretoria continue their collaboration in community development with the new initiative aimed at testing UNESCO’s ICT Competency Standards for Teachers and Draft Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Curriculum for Teachers. Two training courses for teachers from Kgoro Primary School, situated in the township of Zithobeni (South Africa), recently took place in the framework of this initiative.

The Zithobeni community is situated approximately 70 kilometres from Pretoria and is disadvantaged in terms of social and economic life. Most people stay in informal settlements, are unemployed and illiterate, which makes it difficult for parents to pay school fees and to engage in academic matters of their children. Kgoro Primary School has programmes on HIV and AIDS, and holds regular awareness activities. It is also challenged by the high rate of learners who are orphans.

Against this social context, the teacher training at Kgoro Primary School was initiated bearing in mind the potential advantages of ICT and Internet for teachers from a developing community, and the challenges and barriers they may face. Advantages of such a project include access to vast resources of information that teachers can tailor to their circumstances, enhancing the quality of teaching, and learning from international expertise.

The content of the courses was adapted according to the UNESCO MIL Curriculum. The main challenge of the information literacy component was to teach Internet search skills in a limited time frame to people who are working fulltime, so that the use of ICT becomes an integral part of their work practices in the future.

The teachers from Kgoro School were highly dedicated to following the training sessions and sharing knowledge. Their feedback will be used to prepare recommendations to UNESCO on how to better align its Curriculum to the needs and expectations of teachers who are employed fulltime and enter the training as experienced and working adults.

On 27 October 2010 a special ceremony took place at Kgoro School during which the teachers who successfully completed the training received their certificates. According to Ms Phoofolo, the headmistress of Kgoro School, the ICT knowledge is now fully applied and adopted. “ICT is becoming standard practice even for those who did not attend the training programme,” she says. Teachers were empowered both on a personal level and as development agents for Zithobeni, and there is now a shift from paper work to computerised activities.