/ 26 April 2005

Rej Brijraj – In search of an answer to life’s mysteries

Where and when did you matriculate?

From Gandhi Desai High School in Durban in 1966.

What was your favourite subject?

My favourite subject was mathematics as it was both stimulating and challenging.

Who was your favourite teacher?

My favourite teacher was Mr Hasim, who taught me biology. He had a passion for his subject, and ensured we understood and appreciated the miracles of nature.

Any fond memories of your school days?

The fondest memories I have are of my primary school days. Teachers were warm, friendly and inspiring. As a result I excelled in school work and sport. On the contrary, I found high school extremely boring and therefore failed dismally as a teenager.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

One was made to believe that becoming a professional (like a doctor) would be good. Remember, there were few opportunities for black people in those days. My secret ambition was just to go on studying so that I could get to know more about life’s mysteries and go on to make some small difference somewhere.

What sort of boy were you?

I was always curious and questioning. In primary school I was excited about going to school. In high school we were stifled, and as a result I became withdrawn and rebellious.

What is your job description?

As chief executive officer of the South African Council for Educators (Sace), my primary task is to implement the decisions and mandates of the council. This is mainly concerned with registration standards, and the professional and ethical development of educators. It is our task to enhance the status and image of the teaching profession as society transforms.

How does your experience as a teacher help influence the decisions you make as head of Sace?

I taught for almost 27 years, mostly under oppressive conditions, and was fortunate to have experience teaching throughout the levels from baby class to adults. I learnt a lot about the simple notions of love and care for the learners, collegiality, ongoing personal learning and agitating for change in the hope of a better future. These notions and democratic principles I share with my colleagues.

What role do you see for teachers today?

Teachers are the largest intellectual force in our country. They are key agents for change. The eventual transformation of our society is in their hands.

What is your message to would-be teachers?

Please come unto the profession. The country needs new teachers and innovations in education. It is you, the new generation of teachers, that will lead us into a better life.