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Born to inspire others to become the best they can be, through education

I am a proud South African teacher, who started her teaching journey, twenty- seven years ago, teaching in the most rural and marginalized area.

Being born during the apartheid era, allowed me an opportunity to be born and raised in two different environments, that is in the township as well as in the village. This movement occurred not because my family was travelling for fun or leisure, but it was due to socio-economic factors, which forced my father to leave home and look for a job in the big city, whilst my mother had to keep the fire burning at home, which was in the village. It was through these experiences that I survived the harsh realities of teaching in the most rural and marginalized schools.

As a product of the apartheid educational system, I believe I am in a better space to compare the experience of curricula under the apartheid education dispensation and what I have to teach now to learners who are born free. The question that I ask myself is, as a teacher, am I allowed the space to see to the realization of Oliver Tambo’s vision of a future education, as encapsulated in his 1986 ‘Open the Doors of Learning ‘, which was a message to all South Africans during the period of uprisings in South Africa (Baai 2006:182).

This vision of one of the great men of our life time, takes me to another question, do we, as a country have teacher development programs that cater for teachers who teach in the most marginalized environments, whilst having to cater for the needs of 21st century learners?  Let me leave you to ponder on that.

Drawing from previous research and studies, it is credible to assert that our schools still largely reflect classism and geopolitical boundaries of the past, which calls for good teachers who are prepared to adapt themselves to changing circumstances. Teachers with empathy, and who understand issues from a pupil’s perspective, read nonverbal signals, and react appropriately when learners need help. These are teachers who understand their learner’s emotional, social, and intellectual situations.

There is a dire need for today’s teachers to acquire skills that are necessary for gaining the much needed knowledge, understandings and resilience. Teachers who are encouraged to develop an understanding of themselves, the world around them, and their place in that world. These are envisaged teachers who can achieve all that have been mentioned when they understand their own sensations, thoughts, beliefs, values, and behaviours.

That can be achieved when teachers are challenged to know and acknowledge what makes them tick. These are teachers who are not in the system only for curriculum delivery, but they have a bigger dream which makes them develop themselves such that they know why they get out of bed every morning. The heroes who are not afraid to examine themselves, which may require constant self-awareness and self-consciousness.

You may be faced with various challenges, in your teaching space, which still have hidden, covert and subtle prejudices, but continue with your calling. You were born to teach. Do that with pride, love and a smile.

Babalwa Puzi

(e-Learning Education Specialist, a Multi-grade coordinator and an Author)

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