First published online.
It is the end of an era for education in the Eastern Cape as the man responsible for upskilling some of the province’s most influential mathematics and technical teachers hangs his hat on a career spanning more than four decades.
Dr Vasuthavan Govender, the chief education specialist at the Nelson Mandela Provincial Teacher Development Institute, is serving his last official day in the educational sector on Thursday.
Starting his career in 1982 as a mathematics teacher at Woolhope Senior Secondary School in Malabar, Govender went on hold various academic and leadership positions in the field, including as subject adviser, university lecturer and organiser of the first nonracial Mathematics Conference at the former Alabama Hotel in 1988.
The 63-year-old Malabar resident had studied and taught predominately mathematics across the province before returning to Gqeberha in 2013 as the deputy chief education specialist in mathematics and science in the then PE District, and then taking up the position of programmes manager at the then new Teacher Development Institute.
And for just over five years, Govender has been involved in teacher development at the institute where, together with his team, they have trained thousands of teachers — more than 5,000 in the last year.
“I started off as a mathematics teacher; I wanted more pupils to do higher grade mathematics at the time,” Govender said. “It opened doors to a number of careers, especially in the 1980s when apartheid was in full force. “I have seen all the changes in our curriculum/syllabuses since democracy. “The changes were necessary, though confusing at times, for schools in the early 2000s.”
He said in preparing teachers and improving their knowledge and skills, pupils would be the biggest beneficiaries. “If you examine the Eastern Cape grade 12 results since 2018, you will notice an upward trend. “This is no accident, it coincided with the establishment of Teacher Development Institutes in the Eastern Cape. “I think that training of teachers in some parts of our province may not have received the priority it deserved. If more of our teachers are trained, I have no doubt that the Eastern Cape will be in the top four [provinces] in SA.”
Govender, who has publishing more than 30 mathematics papers, and served as both president and vice-president of the National Council of the Association for Mathematics Education of SA, said he was looking forward to a little more time on his hands.
“It has been non-stop since 1982. My last day is August 31 [today]. I look forward to taking things a bit easier; however, I will not be idle. I am teaching a Mathematics Education class at Nelson Mandela University until the end of 2023, and I may do a few classes at NMU in 2024. I have been asked to get involved in research and other projects. I also hope to continue helping and supervising postgraduate students in education.”
The current chair of the SA Mathematics Foundation said he would never have been able to wear as many hats in his career had it not been for the support of his wife, Premela, whom he married in 1988. The Govenders have two children, Kushantha, a pharmacist, and Sachen, a civil engineer, and two grandchildren.
Dr Vasuthavan Govender