Itumeleng Molefi never intended to become a teacher. Despite being the one in class who kids went to when they needed something explained, he was the mischievous one who knew how to get up to nonsense without getting caught. So instead of going the teaching route, he chose to study physics and maths.
It was no surprise then that as a first year university student Molefi found himself tutoring maths and science to high school learners on weekends through a non-profit organisation called Ikamva Youth.
“I really enjoyed the moments of clarity that I gave to the learners and students, and I enjoyed the feeling of contributing to, and forming relationships with, the next generation. It became clear to me that teaching was something I had to try,” says Molefi.
After completing an honours degree in physics, he took a break from his studies and joined Teach South Africa, a non-profit organisation that seeks graduates who have not studied education, but who can teach mathematics, science, technology and English. He was placed in the small Northern Cape Karoo town of Carnarvon.
“My initial plan was to teach there for two years. It’s been four years now and I’m still there, teaching natural science to grade 9 learners, and physical sciences to grades 10, 11 and 12.”
Molefi strongly believes the only way to make the world a better place is through education.
“By teaching our students to question everything critically, instead of just accepting whatever is put in front of them, we will have a more conscious and active citizenry that will help further social justice in our world,” he says.
According to Molefi, the secret to good teaching is the ability to make the material more engaging, and to show learners how their theoretical work can be applied to real life problems.
In 2016 Molefi was one of 47 science teachers selected globally to attend the Cern High School Teacher Programme in Switzerland, and in July he will be one of 50 science teachers worldwide at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada to take part in the prestigious EinsteinPlus programme.
“This will be another opportunity for me to learn how to make the material I teach come to life,” he says.
— Linda Doke