Mary Immaculate Sithembile Dlamini

Teacher, Linpark Secondary School, Pietermaritzburg

Growing up in a socioeconomically disadvantaged community in Elandskop, Mary Immaculate Sithembile Dlamini did not have access to tap water or electricity, and community halls and sports centres were unheard of. Dlamini walked to school daily because her parents could not afford to pay for transport.

The primary school she attended didn’t have a library and when she got to high school, there wasn’t a science laboratory to speak of, so pursuing a science stream was not an option. This posed a problem for Dlamini, who had always been fascinated by science and biology. Determined to pursue her ambitions, she moved to a school in Marianhill that offered science, and successfully completed her matric there. Thanks to funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme she was able to enrol at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, where she obtained a BSc biochemistry and chemistry degree.

Dlamini had long fancied herself a teacher — during her high school days she used to assist her fellow learners with certain subjects and loved every minute of it. So once she completed her degree, she completed a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE). Thereafter she spent a couple of years in the Czech Republic, completing a master’s degree at the Technical University of Liberec, after being awarded a scholarship to do so by the department of economic development in KwaZulu-Natal.

These days Dlamini (30) teaches mathematics and life sciences at Linpark Secondary School in Pietermaritzburg. As a teacher she goes the extra mile for her students, teaching extra early morning life sciences classes to her grade 12 learners to better prepare them for their examinations. She is simultaneously pursuing a PhD in science education, marrying her two passions.

Dlamini is also the current deputy secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union Pietermaritzburg Central branch. She uses this position to encourage her fellow teachers to further their studies in an effort to benefit their learners. “The task of a teacher is educating a child, and a nation, for that matter,” she says. “I would love to see my learners as engineers, health experts, lawyers, captains of industries and businessmen/women.” Someday she’d like to be the principal of a disadvantaged school, setting new standards. “A teacher is a master of all arts — without a teacher the economy will collapse.” – Fatima Asmal