When Malibongwe Mngomezulu left journalism for a career in teaching, she didn’t expect to encounter the humanity which she has seen from the children and the communities she’s taught in.
Mngomezulu joined Teach South Africa in 2017 as a teaching ambassador, part of the programme which recruits young graduates with no formal teaching qualifications to become teachers in underprivileged communities across the country.
“I come from a small town in Plettenberg Bay, where the model-C school that I attended had less children in a class compared to the 50-odd students whom I teach at a time. It was honestly a culture shock for me, because when I was a journalist I was dealing with celebrities. Now I deal with children who go through the most,” she said.
Mngomezulu worked as a journalist for a year after graduating from Rhodes University with a post-graduate diploma in journalism and media studies. Prior to studying at Rhodes, she studied politics and international relations at the University of the Western Cape.
On March 16, TeachSA celebrated its 10th anniversary, where the 2017/2018 cohort graduated and where Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga was also present.
In a passionate speech delivered by Mngomezulu at the event, she explained how the time spent as a teacher in a classroom was indispensable.
“I always say to my kids I feel like I was forced to go to a model-C school. I would want to change my experience and go to a public school because the strength that these kids have and the experiences that they have is amazing.”
As an English teacher, Mngomezulu has encountered harrowing stories of what children have experienced. She taught at Amogelang Secondary School in Soshanguve for two years, and has this year been placed at Lekoa Shandu Secondary School in Sharpeville, Vereeniging.
“Sometimes you find that these kids will write in their essays about what’s going on at home, like being assaulted or going to bed hungry, and you realise that this is the real world,” she told City Press.
Despite an increase in violent incidents from learners in schools, Mngomezulu has urged people to be more understanding, because there is often more than one factor which has led to why a child is acting out.
“I find that there’s no partnership between communities, parents and schools anymore. Sometimes parents are absent in these kids lives, and we have to be understanding about what they are going through. What is a child exposed to at their homes? We can’t be quick to judge, and this is why there needs to be more involvement and partnerships in these communities,” she said.
For co-founder of Teach SA, Richard Masemola, Teach SA has proven itself to fill the gap of missing teachers in rural and disadvantaged communities, whilst also being able to provide employment opportunities to graduates.
“TeachSA is an non-governmental organisation, and is reliant on the private sector for funding. While we do the recruiting and training of these graduates, the department of basic education then places them and pays their salaries. We don’t get money from the government,” he explained.
The programme was first piloted in Ekurhuleni South, in areas such as Katlehong, Vosloorus and Thokoza.
“Angie Motshekga was the MEC of education at the time and she demonstrated confidence in Teach SA to pilot graduates without teaching degrees. Ten years later we have had 566 graduates and have managed to retain 68% as permanent teachers,” he explained.
Masemola also explained the challenges of trying to recruit graduates who often have degrees in the maths and sciences fields, and who are being lured by opportunities in the corporate sector.
“To entice these graduates is not easy, especially if they have the potential of earning more money or building their careers in other fields. Young people are not encouraged to get into teaching. We identified that those who have studied the subject like maths should fill the gap of becoming a maths teacher. We help them navigate their way in a classroom so that they can apply their skills which means we have competent teachers in a classroom,” he explained.
Masemola said that there is a severe skills-shortage when it comes to certain schools, and Teach SA has enabled public schools to be equipped with teachers who are proficient in the maths, sciences, accounting and languages fields.
“Education is a right that must be given to every child. We are completely reliant on funding from the private sector. What Teach SA does is fulfil goal four of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which is the ability to provide quality education.”