Durban Teacher Wins top Honours

By Indhrannie Pillay

A Durban educator has done South Africa proud at the recent Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teacher’s Forum Awards held in Helsinki, Finland. Kumaras Pillay from Burnwood Secondary in Durban won first prize for his creation of MLearner in the category of Innovation in Community.

Mobile Learner (MLearner) is a mathematics and science portal which students can access through their cellphones. Pillay said, “There is a nationwide crisis with regards to the maths and science results. Through Mlearner we hope to do our share to remedy the situation and start a process which revolutionizes learning.”

MLearner is a website designed specifically for a cellphone and its contents can be downloaded inexpensively which makes it accessible to all. “Quality education should not be privilege but a right. Economically not every student can afford private tuitions. Mlearner reaches students in disadvantaged areas giving them an equal opportunity in global learning,” Pillay said.

The site offers students the opportunity to take online tests. The students receive their results immediately and corrections also appear. It also guides the student in terms of the amount of time they should spend on a question. “The beauty of this site is that it makes learning exciting and fun and at the same time prepares the student for their final exams,” added Pillay.

A very proud and ecstatic Mr Vinesh Gokal, principle of Burnwood Secondary said, “MLearner has had a tremendous impact on students. In under two months we have already registered over 180 000 hits on the site.” According to him the school is now in full partnership with Microsoft and within the next few weeks MLearner will be running digital literacy programmes. These programmes will be translated into different languages. “With this concept we are aiming to take schools into the 21st century. While we are living in the 21st century already, many schools are not technologically into it,” he added.

Gokal says that people are techno scared and need to start exposing themselves to technology as we are living in the digital age. “It is our aim that by 2013 every school, teacher and learner will be computer skilled. Mlearner is our way of helping our youth to improve their knowledge and gain a since of confidence which will position them with a step in the right direction.”

Reiterating the sentiments of Gokal, Pillay said, “Teachers need to become techno smart and bring these things into the classroom and expose students to the positive side of technology. We need to skill out teachers not kill them.” As part of his prize, Pillay will be given the opportunity to visit the Microsoft campus in Washington next year. “This trip will give me a wonderful opportunity to see the latest classroom technology and meet with Microsoft employees and see how they develop programmes that will be used in the classroom.”

The Innovative Teachers Forum (ITF) is an initiative by the United Nations and Microsoft which awards and honours educators for the outstanding contributions in incorporating technology into their classrooms. The first ITF took place in 2005 with teachers being acknowledged in three categories, Innovation in Community, Innovation in Collaboration and Innovation in Content. For more information you can visit