As a kid, I always admired the women who stood in front of the class talking to the young minds. The women who instilled knowledge to the young minds, who became their 8 hours 5 days a week mother. The women who were passionate, whose presence oozed of love, care, and nurture. I always envisioned myself to be such a woman one day.
I remember in 1996 when I went with my grandfather and aunt to Florida Avenue Primary School to enroll my aunt in grade 4. Mrs Menaar greeted us with the friendliest smile I’ve ever seen, and she asked me my name. Confident, I remember telling her, and she said that she looks forward to seeing me in class, only for my grandpa to tell her I’ll be starting school the following year. The memory of that day sparked the love of teaching, that one day I’d also want to welcome a young hopeful child to my class. Introduce them to the world beyond their imagination. Show them that they are stars and they can change the world.
My grade two, three and four teacher used to take us around the world and beyond the universe through reading. Her voice would fill the classroom as it changes through each character. She made me feel like I was not of this world, I knew then that through teaching I can be whatever. I have a voice, to tell my story, I have a voice to tell the story of the other, I have a voice to inspire, I have a voice to open young minds.
When I discovered the passion for numbers in Mr Lawrence’s classes, I realised that numbers plus words make perfect sense. The world is complete through that.
My teachers took me through various dimensions of my school life and childhood, the impact my teachers had from my foundation in primary till my matric was remarkable. Each hand that I passed through carved knowledge and self-discovery in me. It showed me who I am, that I was cared for, I was encouraged to look beyond my horizon. I saw the love of a teacher, a miracle worker. I knew that one day that I will one day step into a classroom and help carve the dreams of the young minds.
Today I’ve decided to follow my dream as a teacher and shut out all the things that had diverts me towards other directions.
But becoming a teacher has proved to be challenging in South Africa.
Has my passion become a curse and road to starvation?
South has a shortage of teachers but there isn’t funding for them. It’s like the country is saying, yes we want you to teach but you gotta do that from your own pocket regardless of your background whether you can afford it or not. We are told of the glorious Funza Lushaka bursary, that it caters for “all” teachers, sorry my child that’s not the reality. We go to varsity to enroll and pop out thousands of rands during registration. We are still hopefully coz the university says don’t pay now if you have applied for funding, we’ll work through this. Hopeful as we are, we continue to enroll because the fact is I’m following my passion and no money will stop me from becoming a teacher. We tried applying for NSFAS- but clearly, some of us are too poor to afford the fees yet too rich for NSFAS. The sad reality of becoming a teacher.
Two months later in the course, the Funza list comes out, out of thousands of applicants only a few are selected. The “royal family” of Maths and Science. Reality kicks in, how am I gonna continue with my studies? NSFAS rejected me, Funza says my subjects ain’t important.
Question to the government: how are we expected to follow our dreams like the law and engineering students who have bursaries from all walks of life. Who funders head hunt them, how are we as teachers suppose to be motivated to follow our dreams if we can’t even afford to be in the institution in which teaching is offered? In this whole country, teaching only had one form of funding which is Funza Lushaka, and even with that one they still cater for the “royals”.
Is becoming an English teacher that irrelevant that you feel the need not to fund us. Not to create any bursaries for us. We are forced to fall into the sick broken society of debt because it’s my dream. We are forced to take bank loans in order to pursue our dreams.
Why are we as teachers marginalised against the glorious “royal” courses offered by universities?
Why do teachers have to fight in order to be heard?
Why do we have to struggle in a democratic society?
Dear Mr government, please sort out the mess which has arose at Wits University, Education Campus, only a handful of students are funded and the rest of us are thrown into the debts society. We’re not royal enough for the funds of South Africa.
Dear Mr Government hear my cry as a teacher.