The power to change lives

When and where did you matriculate?

From Mafori-Mphahlele in Soweto, in 1996.

Did you have a favourite teacher?

My geography teacher, Bonolo Seolonyane. She is an angel, you know. All the learners liked her. She always brought a stick with her to class but it didn’t threaten or scare any of us. She was always calm and polite. We knew we could count on her for guidance on anything from schoolwork to problems at home. She also had the ability to make everyone do their work: she gave us long assignments to do but somehow everyone in the classroom finished them in time.

Any favourite subjects?

Biology. I always wanted to study micro-biology, maybe some day I will. The problem was that my biology teacher in Grade 12 knew nothing about biology. We once had an argument which turned ugly because she told the class that water boils from the top and freezes from the bottom — and then she refused to admit her mistake when I challenged her.

What are your fondest memories of school?

When I was elected president of the School Representative Council in 1995 and re-elected in 1996. It was the first time ever that a female ran for the presidency in our school. I was very rebellious and always fought for equal treatment of girl and boy learners.

And the worst experiences?

I was involved in a car accident when I was in primary school that resulted in me losing my teeth permanently. When I went to high school, no one wanted to be associated with me. I had to quit dancing because nobody wanted to be my partner.


What do you think of the many changes in the schooling system over the last few years?

There has been both good and bad changes. Personally I think our religion in education policy is the best. I wish I had had the opportunity to learn about other religions at school.

Allowing poor parents to be exempted from paying fees is one of the best changes ever made. No child should be denied a better future because their parents are poor.

One of the things I think needs to be revisited is allowing pregnant girls to school. I believe their right to go to school should be balanced with the fact that teachers are not trained to deal with pregnant learners. There has to be some form of a support structure for teachers — already overworked — and schools that have pregnant learners.

Why did you decide to be a journalist?

Among other things, I love writing and most importantly I wanted to help people. The media is very powerful and journalists have the power to touch people’s lives — negatively or positively. Also, I wanted a bit of fame.

What are your plans for life after the Teacher?

I am going to open a pub: Luthendo in Soweto. I intend to continue writing as a freelance-reporter.

Your message for our learners and teachers out there?

Teachers have the power to make or break a learner. They should therefore be careful of the remarks they make about learners to learners.

And to learners: It does not matter where you come from, what matters is where you are going and your determination to get there. YOU are responsible for your own future. Parents and teachers are only there to guide you, not to live your life for you.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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Suzan Chala
Suzan Chala works from Jhb, Gauteng, SA. Editor of Sowetan Education, MSK and Matric Q&A. Former journalist: M&G. Love life and all its ups and downs
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