By JESSICA FELDTMAN
The COVID-19 lockdown has paralysed learning in many schools – in part because the majority of South Africa’s teachers lack digital know-how, experience, and resources.
However, shortly after schools shut down, two concerned educators, Shaakira Mia and Janine Brown, stepped into the breach by creating a WhatsApp group for online teacher support and collaboration.
Within an hour, the group had reached maximum capacity.
So, they created more groups.
By early May the WhatsApp groups had mushroomed so rapidly, Mia decided to switch ‘The Great Collaboration’ to a different networking app called Telegram.
Now, about 5500 diligent South African teachers are sharing a plethora of lessons, webinars, study guides, digital links, conversations, ideas, and ‘war stories’ online.
Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram allows an unlimited number of participants and cloud storage space. So, if a participant joins a group at a later stage, they are able to access all previously shared information.
South African education may never be the same again.
Grade 1 teacher Evangeline Charelson says she “absolutely LOVES” the Grade 1 group on Telegram.
“I think about my learners every day. I wonder how they are coping during this stressful time and what their parents are doing to alleviate their fears and confusion,” she said.
“The group has provided me with more resources in a week than any other platform I have been on, including Facebook and WhatsApp. I wish I had found it sooner.”
This burgeoning collaboration is something that many teachers believe has been missing from South African education.
Marise de Chalain, a participant in the Grade 12 group is grateful for the “wealth of information” it has given her access to.
“I have been an educator for over 30 years now and I realized more and more, over the years, that educators across South Africa have a huge need to work together in sharing their knowledge.”
She especially appreciates that this initiative is uniting teachers across South Africa.
“To see educators from all walks of life all over South Africa working together for the good of learners across all grades is an absolute joy to see,” de Chalain said.
Mia has noticed that not all educators have the data or are comfortable to switch from the continuing WhatsApp groups to Telegram.
She hopes that more educators will be granted the means to join the Telegram collaboration.
Mia aims to expand on the Telegram collaboration to create a ‘ZA Learning Collaborative’ – an easily accessible and navigable platform.
She also hopes to initiate a network of educators and corporations from various countries on a common platform. Educators will not only be able to aid one another with pedagogy and educational resources, but also suggest ways to aid learners with disabilities and victims of abuse.
A guide to using Telegram
If you are a Grade 1-12 educator, you may want to join one of the Telegram collaboration groups.
Here are some guidelines on how to use Telegram: https://www.dignited.com/36990/a-complete-guide-to-usingtelegram/
And a Youtube explainer: https://youtu.be/tGVKx8WR-7w
Here is the Play Store app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.telegram.messenger
Join a group to share information, resources, ideas, strategies, expertise, and any educational related issues. Simply click on the links below to be taken to the App. Share these links with any teacher – the interaction is welcome: