Celebrities involved in lockdown book reading club only, not digital school – Govt

Somizi and Mohale. Image credit: Twitter/Mohale Motaung

The Department of Basic Education has sought to clarify the use of celebrities in an online initiative aimed at supporting learners during the ongoing lockdown period.

In a statement on Tuesday, Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the initiative has two components – the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Lockdown Digital School and the Lockdown Book Reading Club.

He explained that celebrities are only involved in the Lockdown Book Reading Club component as its ambassadors.

Mohale Motaung “teaching” video

Mhlanga added, “Of the 56 teachers involved [in the STEM Lockdown Digital School], 54 are qualified and registered with the SA Council for Educators (SACE). Two are student teachers.”

Social media users have raised concern about the use of celebrities after a viral video showed actor and model Mohale Motaung-Mhlongo apparently using an incorrect example while teaching English.

Mhlanga’s statement revealed that Motaung-Mhlongo is one of the two student teachers and is currently a first-year student at the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM) Graduate School in Johannesburg.

Radio host and Idols SA judge Somizi Mhlongo-Motaung, who is Motaung-Mhlongo’s husband, is listed among the Lockdown Book Reading Club’s ambassadors.

‘No intention to undermine teaching profession’

Others include DJ Sbu, Pearl Modiadie, Khaya Mthethwa, Penny Lebyane, Enhle Mbali and Tumi Sole.

Mhlanga emphasised that the ambassadors have “volunteered their time” and are not participating in the formal teaching, but in raising awareness about the importance of reading. They also do not get paid.

He added, “There was no intention to undermine the teaching profession in any way. The 56 teachers involved in the actual learner support programme are qualified or in the process of obtaining their teaching qualification.

“The use of ambassadors to promote reading has been in place since the Read to Lead campaign was launched in 2015.”

Mhlanga explained that a nongovernmental organisation called Africa Teen Geeks started the initiative, which is funded by the SASOL foundation.

There is no financial implication for the Department of Basic Education, which is only providing “advocacy support” for the initiative, he added.

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