In the heart of South Africa's vibrant educational landscape, a pioneering initiative was set in motion between UNESCO MGIEP and the Western Cape Education Department in South Africa (WCED) from 26 to 30 June 2023. The partnership provided intensive training on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) to just under 200 participants including Care and Support Assistants (CSAs) teachers, district officials, CSA coordinators, and other WCED staff members. An additional 200 teachers will receive virtual training later this year.
Training for Care and Support Assistants (CSAs) and Teachers
The 18-34-year-old CSAs, dedicated to assisting students from vulnerable backgrounds, underwent a one-day training session focused on their own mental and emotional well-being. The training aimed to equip them with the tools to manage their emotions and enhance their resilience. Teachers received a 2-day intervention divided into two batches across four days. The aim was to infuse SEL into their learning toolbox and recognize their personal well-being as a crucial outcome. With this knowledge and skills, they could navigate complex challenges and aim to solve multidimensional problems at schools.
The Reflective Journal - SEL Scribbles
As a complement to the workshop, participants received SEL Scribbles, a reflective journal compiled and created by UNESCO MGIEP. The journal provided a thinking and emotional space for participants to document their learnings and thoughts during the session, offering additional tools and practices to support their journey toward well-being, both in and outside the classroom.
Positive Feedback and Sustained Efforts
Feedback from teachers through pre-and-post surveys, indicated the workshops were successful, leaving them feeling well-equipped with SEL tools for their own well-being and that of their students. To sustain the momentum, the Inclusive and Specialized Education Unit at the WCED and the Institute will follow up with a 3-week online facilitated self-paced course titled "The SEL Educator - A Primer." UNESCO MGIEP will also train Western Cape facilitators as potential Master Trainers to support teacher training, including trainers from the Cape Teaching and Learning Institute (CTLI).
Partnerships and Expansion
Building on the success with CSAs, the team explored a potential partnership and training plan with YearBeyond (YB), a youth service program housed in the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sports in the Western Cape. Additionally, UNESCO MGIEP engaged with multiple stakeholders at provincial and national levels to advocate for the mainstreaming of SEL and Digital Teacher programs across the country.
Building SEL Skills at Different Levels of Government
As an addition to South Africa’s National Curriculum Framework, UNESCO MGIEP engaged stakeholders at provincial and national levels to address poor teacher morale and conflicts among students and teachers. MGIEP advocated for mainstreaming Social and Emotional Learning and Digital Teacher programs nationwide. A meeting with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) concretized the implementation, empowering educators, students, and communities. Discussions explored potential research opportunities. The team also met with the South African Council for Educators (SACE) to explore teachers receiving credits for completing MGIEP courses, ensuring well-deserved recognition.
SEL Empowered Decision-Makers
In nurturing strategic partnerships, UNESCO MGIEP held in-person meetings with the Tshwane Leadership and Management Academy and the National School of Government, resulting in both organizations becoming integral components of the design lab for the SEL for Decision Makers Course, which is currently being developed.
The impact of this collaboration initiative will reverberate through South Africa's educational landscape, empowering educators, students, and decision-makers with the skills to navigate life's complexities with resilience, empathy, compassion, and critical thinking. These partnerships will also deepen relations with UNESCO priority regions such as Africa.