Moment of Silence GBV load shedding Fallen Hero
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An online campaign has been launched to honour South African teachers who have died since January 2020.

 

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Johannesburg, South Africa (06 February 2021) – As our teachers work on the front lines, it is estimated that more than 2,000 educators have died due to COVID-19. Some schools have lost more than one staff member, leaving a whole school community bereft. It is heartbreaking to see this memorial wall of photos, but so incredibly important to remember and honour these fallen heroes.

Our teachers are much more than numbers. They have names; they have families; they had hopes and dreams just like everyone else. We cannot allow them to disappear into South Africa’s statistical records.

For this reason, Maggie Verster and Fiona Wallace, have created this #RememberOurTeachersSA campaign to make sure that each and every teacher, official, administrator, admin staff and teaching support person will be remembered and will not just be a number in a news item or press release. Or not being mentioned at all, anywhere.

In mid-January 2021, two former South African teachers, Verster and Wallace woke up to the news that they had lost five former colleagues and friends to COVID-19. Five lives in one day. They were devastated and felt utterly powerless.

After some futile and depressing research, they realised that no one – anywhere – was honouring the other frontline workers – South African teachers. There was no single place to find out how many educationalists were dying, where they had taught nor what they had achieved. The varying and often conflicting statistics had reduced each of these lives to mere numbers without names.

Verster states, “We know that, when a member of a school community dies, the whole community is affected. And when a teacher dies, every member of that community mourns”.

However, the pandemic and lockdowns have allowed little or no time or space for South Africa’s education communities to gather to commemorate, honour and mourn their fallen. The ‘normal’ school assemblies, services or memorials have been impossible. Some communities have stood witness to painful ‘drive-by’ funerals; others have created heartfelt videos to share on social media.

“However”, says Wallace, “the truth is that the vast majority of our teachers have been given no honouring at all beyond joining the daily mortality statistics. Most have passed on with no commemoration, let alone been given a name”.

Verster and Wallace began a commemorative group on Facebook but had no idea how all-consuming the research and postings would be, and how difficult it would be to find the real people and names behind the numbers.

Remembering Our Teachers South Africa - Memorial Website Launched for our Fallen Heroes!
Photo Cred: #RememberOurTeachersSA

They have been assisted by many other teachers and department officials who have shared information and created posts about the colleagues they have lost. In addition to the Facebook group, a permanent online virtual memorial site aims to honour all the teachers, lecturers, administrative and support staff, education department and union officials South Africa has lost since 2020.

They still have many lives to record and honour.

“We have only begun to scratch the surface. We are determined that no one should be forgotten,” says Verster.

The South Africans education community is invited to assist in this enormous task by submitting missing names and details to the site. “We are not asking whether they have died because of Covid-19. Every teacher lost has a devastating effect on education. Let us remember all of our teachers. One teacher at a time,” says Wallace.

What can you do?

  • If you know of an educator, lecturer, staff member or educational official who has passed away, please add a post to our Facebook Group or submit their names here, so that their individual lives can be recorded. If you are sharing posts about teachers who have passed on, on social media, remember to add the hashtag #rememberourteacherssa.
  • Please add your stories of your departed colleagues and celebrate their lives.
  • Show appreciation by acknowledging them with a comment or a like.
  • Ask your colleagues to join our Remembrance Group on Facebook (Remember our Teachers SA).

Sources: #RememberOurTeachersSA
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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