Falling in Love with Teaching

I always look forward to people’s reaction whenever I introduce myself to them and they find out that I have three names each starting with the same letter. Things get even more interesting when I share that my parents are Philile Patience Vilakazi and Mandla Makhamshela Nkosi, and that my paternal grandparents were named Martha Msesi Mazibuko and Mafolo Mose Nkosi. One may think that this was planned but its all a coincidence!

I am Sabelo Suprise Success Nkosi, born in Barberton, Mpumalanga. I was a learner at Mhola Primary School, Sikhutsele Combined School and Emjindini Senior Secondary School. I then went on to study nursing at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape.

I did not always aspire to be a nurse, but I wanted to be the first person in my family to have a university degree that would guarantee me a job immediately after graduating. However, I dropped it at the end of my second year. I was placed at a tertiary hospital in an oncology ward where most of the patients there passed away. I couldn’t handle that. Also, I felt like I was in an arranged marriage. It just didn’t work.

Learning how to teach

A very good friend of mine, Linda Mabuza, told me about the ISASA South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme (SAMSTIP). Being a person who loves to engage with people and exchange knowledge, I thought teaching would be a good fit for me.

I applied to join SAMSTIP, was lucky enough to be accepted into the programme and was finally placed at St Martin’s School in Johannesburg, where I still teach today.

I was firstly an intern in the science department, mentored by the head of department Saloshna Naidoo, Sunitha Jagath and Victor Tshabalala. They made me fall in love with the profession by learning from them. Through them, I started to understand that teaching goes beyond passing on facts to learners. It is about making a difference in their lives.

I have spent three years at the high school as a science intern. About 25% of that time was spent at the prep school, observing Geraldine Naidoo teaching the little ones. She taught me how to treat younger learners with extreme care and how to water down my knowledge for them to understand what I am saying, because my majors are physical science and mathematics in the Senior Phase and the Further Education and Training Phase (FET).

I must say it was difficult at first, as sometimes it would feel like I’m robbing them of knowledge or what I’m telling them would feel wrong in terms of the ‘science language’.

The value of mentorship

I have since moved from the high school to the prep school. The environment is completely different, challenging but also interesting at the same time. This is my fourth year with SAMSTIP. Unfortunately, I will only be completing my degree next year as I have messed up with a few modules. I thought the content was the same as the one in high school, only to find out in the examination room, during the exam that I got it all wrong. High school work was only the tip of the iceberg.

For now, I’m not looking for major teaching positions. I still need to be mentored and I have a lot to learn still, so I’ll be in the classroom for a while. The e-mails that I receive from parents stating how much of a difference I have made to their children are what keep me motivated to wake up every day and do what I do to the best of my ability.

To learn more about the SAMSTIP initiative, contact Lesiba Langa, the SAMSTIP operations coordinator at ISASA, at telephone +27 (11) 648-1331.