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Special thanks should go to all hard-working teachers.
Many of them work under extremely difficult conditions and some of these gallant men and women achieve miracles in their classrooms.
Education Minister Naledi Pandor heaped special praise on the approximately 300000 civil servants anchoring the public education system at about 28000 schools in South Africa.
She was speaking at a function where last year's matric examination results were announced.
"You are the stars, our success depends on your effort and partnership," Pandor said.
Pandor said she and her senior colleagues in the Council of Education Ministers recognise, acknowledge and honour the valuable contributions of teachers.
Pandor plays a pivotal role in organising and staging the National Teacher Awards and the World Teachers' Day celebrations. She is also patron of the Aggrey Klaaste Mathematics, Science and Technology Educator of the Year Award.
The award, which was named after and in honour of the late former Sowetan editor-in-chief and the founding father of the Sowetan nation-building philosophy and related programmes, promotes quality teaching in maths, science and technology, by rewarding excellence in teaching in public schools.
The award, sponsored and organised by Sowetan, Telkom Foundation and the nine provincial education departments, has been running since 1998 and supports the nation-building philosophy by encouraging quality teaching by recognising practising and retired teachers.
The award requires Sowetan's readers, Telkom's clients and the general public to nominate candidates. It is open to practising teachers at the General Education and Training (GET) and the Further Education and Training (FET) levels, and also to teachers who have retired.
The award comprises two phases: A provincial round - where one winner is selected for each category from each province, and a national round - where one winner is selected for each category.
The first provincial heat was held in Bloemfontein on February 6. The winners, who will represent the province in the national finals in March, are FET teacher Malanka Motlhoioa, GET teacher Maria Mokoena and retired tutor, Agnes Moadira.
Fararai Rufetu of Mpumalanga, Wakeford Gova of Eastern Cape and Masilu Modiba of Limpopo are the 2006-07 national winners.
The other elimination rounds will be held in Mpumalanga on February 20, KwaZulu-Natal on February 22 and 23, Western Cape on March 1 and 2, North West on March 6 and 7, Limpopo on March 8 and 9, Gauteng on March 9 and 10 and Northern Cape on March 14. The venue and date for the Eastern Cape elimination is still to be announced.
Each of the three provincial winners receives a personal computer, R5000 and a certificate of recognition.
The FET winner also wins a computer laboratory for his or her school and the GET winner wins a science centre for his or her school
All the candidates nominated for the Aggrey Klaaste Mathematics, Science and Technology Educator of the Year Award must:
l Demonstrate a love for maths, science or technology and show a willingness to explore new ideas to improve teaching;
l Encourage learners to become independent and instil in them a love for maths, science or technology;
l Have a proven track record in producing good results;
l Lead by example and be respected members of their community;
l Work in the community to uplift its members;
l Encourage learners to discover and explore maths, science or technology projects using relevant, modern and learning and teaching methods;
l Know the learners and the communities they come from;
l Understand, promote and build the image of the science, technology and or mathematics;
l And, participate in specialist professional associations innovating modern and advanced maths, science and technology learning and teaching methods.
Also, in line with the ideals of the national mathematics, physical science and technology strategy, the awards further help to:
l Raise participation and performance by historically disadvantaged learners in Senior Certificate mathematics and physical science;
l Provide high-quality mathematics, science and technology education for all students taking the first GET certificate and FET certificate;
l And to increase and enhance the human resource capacity to deliver quality mathematics, science and technology education.