Educators who want to improve education at underperforming schools throughout sub-Saharan Africa were honored in Johannesburg, South Africa, in January 2015.
Twenty-two students who earned their master of education degrees from Concordia University-Portland attended the ceremony. Two other students from the first class of MEd graduates were unable to attend.
The educators, who reside in South Africa, graduated from Concordia Portland’s online master’s in education program in the fall of 2014, after enrolling in 2013. Of those, 71 percent graduated with a 3.9 grade point average or higher, and six students had a 4.0 GPA.
The ceremony, at the DaVinci Hotel and Suites, kicked off with an invocation by Bishop Dr. David Tswaedi of the Lutheran Church of South Africa. He also provided the opening and closing prayers before a crowd of family and friends. Also participating were Dr. Glenn Smith, executive vice provost; and Dr. Sheryl Reinisch, dean of the College of Education.
“This past year has ignited a fire in my spirit to see our education system uplifted, to be real and relevant to the present generation and for those to come, but more so to ignite a new spark in fellow educators,” said Bronwen Griffith, one of the commencement speakers.
Griffith of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, earned a master’s in education in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in the Inclusive Classroom. She teaches in a school for learners who have learning barriers.
“Truth without hope is failure; but hope without truth is fantasy. It is only through the both of those that you see what is possible,” said Lesetja Legodi, another commencement speaker.
His education master’s degree is in Educational Leadership. Legodi is a senior lecturer at Central Johannesburg College Further Education and Training Institution in South Africa.
Graduates will make a difference
“It was an honor and privilege to meet our graduates in South Africa and celebrate them on this special occasion,” Reinisch said. “To hear their stories of gratitude and transformation was truly inspiring. We are making a difference!”
“Graduates eagerly told of how their teaching has been transformed through their coursework and studies and repeatedly shared their appreciation of the responsiveness of instructors, enrollment specialists, and student service advisors. Our graduates are passionate educators. I have no doubt that they will be transformative leaders within their schools, their townships, and throughout South Africa!”
Smith echoed that, saying, “I have no doubt that these graduates will transform the educational system in South Africa. Listening to the students’ stories and hearing their plans gave me absolute confidence that the MEd program from Concordia University will be life-changing for the children of South Africa. This inaugural group of graduates expressed a positive vision for the future.”
Comments from the graduates
“In my entire extended family, no one has ever earned a master’s degree so I am the first person in my family to achieve such an honor,” said Samantha Streak, who earned a master’s in education in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in Leadership.
Shellington Banda, who earned a master’s in education in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in Methods & Curriculum, hopes to establish professional learning communities and a school. He is the only one of five siblings to have a university education. “The understanding I have acquired with respect to current issues in education cannot be paralleled. I don’t consider only myself to be the beneficiary but my school community (the students I teach and my colleagues) as well as my family,” he said.
The graduates received scholarships, which aim to improve education at underperforming schools throughout sub-Saharan Africa.