91, and still teaching

2012-01-21 19:20

At 91 Nontsikelelo Qwelane is still a full-time teacher – sprightly, sharp and absolutely not mellow.

Gogo (granny), as she is fittingly called by her colleagues and students at Metropolitan International College in White River, still drives herself in her blue Toyota Yaris hatchback.

City Press caught up with her in her Grade 12 class. She teaches geography, which has been her favourite subject for the past 66 years.
Without referring to a textbook, she takes her pupils through a lesson of tropical cyclones. Her walking stick balancing against the wall, she paces up and down the classroom while writing notes neatly on the board.

Qwelane was born in Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. After her training as a teacher she worked in government schools in her birth province before moving to Western Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

Qwelane’s highest qualification is a post-graduate higher education diploma from Unisa. She has been a principal at both primary and high school level.

She reached retirement age in 1989, but could not sit at home so she decided to work at private schools.

Qwelane beams and her voice is filled with joy when she talks about matters of education.

“I felt that I could still teach. I felt that I still had the energy. This isn’t about money, but love for education. It’s my calling,” Qwelane says.

“Some people are finished at my age while some are not. I’m still very much around and retirement is not on my mind yet,” she adds.

Having seen it all through her many years of teaching, Qwelane is happy that the quality of education has improved to the same standard that she received at missionary schools.

“People would be court interpreters after finishing standard six (now Grade 8) at that time. Apartheid was the reason for the poor quality of education,” Qwelane said.

Metropolitan International College principal Protus Kum calls Qwelane “a walking geography textbook”.

“She forgets where she has put her things like any other old person, but not her geography.

“She taught 312 learners last year and 98% of them passed.

“This should tell you about the calibre of her work. She’s doing very well in the private sector where there’s more pressure to perform,” Kum says.

The school’s director Colbert Kouatcho says he is amazed by Qwelane’s drive and discipline.

“She stands for five hours and refused when we suggested that teachers should have chairs and tables in the classroom.

“Gogo even complains that school holidays are too long. If she had her way, they would be two weeks,” Kouatcho says.

“We have to fight and force her to scale down on certain things.

“What a blessing for us to have Gogo here.”

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