Only a prophet could have known that I would become a teacher
<strong>Why did you choose teaching?</strong>
I realised that I could become a teacher when fellow grade 12 learners requested me to assist them in biology and English. Some of them would invite me to their houses for individual attention and discussions.
I think learners enjoyed my pre–sentations because we were on the same level and social status but I could facilitate a lesson effectively. I enjoyed the attention and the respect that came with it all. I guess this was the greatest thing ever to happen to me at that stage.
<strong>Did you think you would become a teacher when you were in grade one? </strong>
The year 1996 was the best year of my life, my final year at Thabamoopo College of Education. I successfully completed my teacher’s diploma and obtained a distinction in one of my subjects. The following year I moved to Senwamokgope, where I would spend a year teaching at Mphuma Secondary School. Only a prophet could have known when I was in grade one that one day I would become a teacher. If it weren’t for my mother, I wouldn’t have managed. Her sacrifices and encouragement are greater than anyone can imagine.
<strong>When did it strike you that you would become a teacher? </strong>
I was born and raised in the former Venda homeland, now part of Limpopo, in a village called Ha-Mashamba.
Growing up in the village was not easy. Rivers were a source of water and electricity was a luxury for the few families who could afford generators. Few households in the village owned television sets then. It was a dream to own a black and white television set in our humble home. This would be a thought to ponder after our dusty and silver feet disqualified us from entering Mr So-and-so’s polished sitting room; a contrast from our polished cow dung hut, a house for everyone in the village. Sarah and Joseph Mukhuswani, my parents, provided for us in a humble household.
Without preschool education, my parents enrolled me for grade one at Mashamba Primary School in 1980. Florah Mufamadi and Mrs Mbedzi laid the foundation for my education in sub A and B, which are now called grade 1 and 2 respectively. The school principal, Lazarus Ramusilei, and all the teachers made every sound learner respect and honour the teaching profession. Sports came last, after daily subsistence farming activities, looking after cattle and goats as well as ploughing the fields. During summer everyone had an obligation to plough. Chess and athletics were the sporting codes I participated in.
Lishavhana Secondary School was fortunate to have Carlton Mukwevho, our principal at the time, who organised guidance workshops in which different careers were discussed. Guests from different career fields were invited to the school to share valuable information with us. I passed grade 12 with matric exemption and enrolled for secondary teachers’ diploma at the college. Studying at such an institution was a cheap option compared with other tertiary institutions. Biology and English were my teaching subjects of choice.
When it was time for college students to go for practice teaching in schools, only a few student teachers enjoyed such times. To me it was business as usual. The biggest challenge was that some of the learners in secondary schools were older than me.
<strong>What subjects did you take to become a teacher? </strong>
I did business management through Unisa [University of South Africa], school management through North West University and I am currently studying towards a master’s degree in business administration. The workshops and real-life training offered by the South African Democratic Teachers Union continue to empower me beyond anyone’s imagination. I left teaching for the corporate world. My friend and I formed an institution called Eduwise, a private institution that offered tuition to high school learners at weekends and during holidays. Learners paid fees to the institution. I left Eduwise and joined Pick n Pay, Vodashop, Mr Price and Toyota. None of these companies gave me enough reasons to stay, teaching was beckoning. In 2008 I was employed at Cosmo City Secondary 1, the school where I am working at present.
<strong>What does the future hold for you as a young teacher? Do you see yourself in this profession for long? </strong>
It is my hope to secure a management position at any of the schools around our district and continue my dream of making a difference in the lives of today’s children. With the wonderful support of my wife, Rebecca, my children and my comrades in education, I know that I will become an educational leader to whom young children look up, someone everyone can trust, who will be a true custodian of education. I did not choose to become a teacher, teaching chose me. That is why I am a teacher.
<em>Thilivhali Isaih Mkhuswani teaches English to grade 10 and 11 at Cosmos Secondary School, northwest of Johannesburg.</em>