South African teacher Mavis Nkwenkwana
Africa’s largest teacher education project, TESSA (Teaching Education in Sub-Saharan Africa), has been awarded the Leadership Award by the e-Learning Africa Awards for Exemplary Open Educational Resource (OER) Practices at a ceremony in Dakar. Hosted by The Open University, TESSA is a programme working to improve the quality of teacher education across sub-Saharan Africa by using new technology, in particular the idea of ‘open content’ or Open Educational Resources.
The award recognises TESSA as a group ‘that has made significant advances in the understanding of the issues of innovation surrounding OER and the OER movement, applied to development issues.’ Innovation is at the heart of the TESSA project, as it is allowing teachers in remote areas that would otherwise have to travel to education centres far away to use high-quality materials from their own classroom.
The flexibility and open nature of the TESSA materials means that institutions and organisations can use the materials in a variety of ways. For some, TESSA materials form the core of a new course or award for teachers; whereas others revise existing programmes to include TESSA materials.
Empowering teachers to develop their skills in this way is proving a huge success. Freda Wolfenden from The Open University said: “We expect that up to 200,000 teachers will be using TESSA resources by the end of next year. TESSA is playing a major leadership role in exploiting new technology to support teachers, many of whom work with large classes in remote rural communities.”
TESSA works with a consortium of national institutions and international organisations in Africa and most recently has extended work into Malawi, implementing its materials and support as a core element in the new national teacher training programme. Currently TESSA has partners in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
TESSA Case Study: Mavis Nkwenkwana, a teacher in South Africa
“I was asked to trial some TESSA materials in October, 2007. I am studying for my National Diploma of Primary Education (NDPE) at the University of Fort Hare. My tutor asked me to trial the materials. I agreed because I thought it would be interesting to try new methods of teaching.
“I was given a module on Literacy. I read the whole module, but what interested me most were the activities and case studies about litter. We have a big problem with litter in our school, only last week our learners were in trouble for dropping litter. So I thought I would prepare a lesson on litter using the TESSA materials. I think the lesson was very successful, for example, I never realised the children worried about litter too. Some children volunteered to be bin monitors so they must care!
“The TESSA materials reflect and support the work I am doing for my NDPE, namely they make me realise that I need to learn every day if I am to be a good teacher. I cannot leave the learning up to the learners! Teaching in this way makes me feel like I have more energy in the classroom. I would definitely like to use more TESSA materials. The methods and activities they recommend give me the confidence and skills to finally be the teacher I have always wanted to be”.