Friday, March 29, 2013

Teaching in the Eastern Cape

I recently stumbled on this moving account of a young woman who has sacrificed everything to be a teacher and faced incredible obstacles at every turn. With South Africa facing a never-ending shortage of qualified teachers, state-sponsored bursaries to study are plentiful but jobs still elude graduates. Even in the Eastern Cape, one of our most under-resourced provinces, I almost can't believe that they would turn passionate young people willing to work in rural areas away. I say 'almost' because I suppose working in education has taught me better.

As I work toward Puku's isiXhosa Children's Story Festival, it's stories like this that leave me feeling hopeless but also quite hopeful. Hopeless because it sometimes feels like things will never change. Hopeful because every now again, I look away for a few weeks or a few months and when I look back, some small and almost imperceptible change has happened and - viola - something is different.

Tembela Mahebe, a 27 year old temporary educator at the Barkley Circuit, in the Eastern Cape is a product of a developing school. She obtained her Bachelor of Education degree, majoring in Economics and Business Economics from Walter Sisulu University. She says when she walked into her first practical class in a local high school in Whittlesea, she knew that was it and never looked back. It was her mother, a single parent of two who funded her higher education through loans and annual sacrifices of her bonuses.

Mahebe started working as a stipend teacher in November 2009, earning R3000 per month. She only received her payments in January 2010. That contract ended in March. From then until July, she stayed at home as she could not find work. At every door she knocked on, she was told that the department was not hiring even though it was obvious that some schools needed a commerce educator. She defines that period as her worst ever. It reminded her of how tormented she was at university because of her choice of speciality.

Read the rest of Tembela's story

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