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Seizing an opportunity

| March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments


My name is Hlamalani Mavukane. Everyone calls me Hlami for short.

I was born in Johannesburg and I then moved to KaNkuzana, a village in Limpopo (Vhembe District) when I was seven years old. My mom was a domestic worker and my dad is still a gardener. I attended Nkuzana Primary School until Grade 7. Our school was very big but had limited resources and facilities. Our teachers tried their absolute best to make sure that we got the best learning experience, and I am so grateful. In 2008, our principal told us about a scholarship opportunity. The scholarship was going to cover our tuition, boarding, transport and tuck. Some of my classmates and I applied, with very little hope that any of us would get accepted. In December of the same year, I got a call from Ridgeway College in Louis Trichardt in Limpopo and The Sumbandila Scholarship Trust,1 telling me that I had been awarded the scholarship. I think my response at the time was, ‘Alright. Thank you.’ I told my mother, who cried and hugged me more than usual. A month later, I was standing at the gates of Ridgeway College, and that’s when the shock hit me. I formed very strong bonds there and friendships which I hold dear to this day. I stayed at Ridgeway College until the end of matric in 2013. In 2014, I hadn’t decided what I wanted to study and all my options at the time were expensive. There was no way my parents were going to afford any of them. One very hot and miserable day, my high school principal and Sumbandila mentor and executive director, Leigh Bristow, approached me with an internship opportunity at a school in KwaZulu-Natal. A month later, I packed my bags and left for Durban, all alone. I worked at Inanda Seminary from 2014 to 2015. I gained the most important life and professional lessons that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Judy Tate took me under her wing and pushed me to limits I didn’t even know I had. That’s where I decided that I wanted to be a teacher. In 2016, I moved to Pretoria, because I wanted to be closer to home and to finally start studying. I applied to study at the University of Pretoria, but I wasn’t accepted because I missed a Universities South Africa (formerly known as HESA)2 deadline due to the fact that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)3 hadn’t responded to me. It was a very dark time and I was very close to giving up. Leigh took me to St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls (DSG) in Pretoria for a ‘meet and greet’ with the head of the school, hoping that I could secure an internship post whilst I sorted out my university dilemma. Unfortunately, at the time the school was only taking final year and Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) students. Before we left, the head advised us to look at the ISASA Maths and English (M&E) Programme – now known as the South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme (SAMSTIP). That afternoon, Leigh contacted ISASA. Five years later, I am a proud ISASA intern working at St Mary’s DSG Pretoria, simply because ISASA is able to break down those kind of barriers and make a way where there is none. ISASA made it possible for me to work with strong, influential and resourceful mentors, such as Gina Johnstone and Pearl Makhene, among many others who contributed to the person and professional that I am today. I am still in awe at how well things worked out for me. I worked at two amazing schools, which offer their staff members state-of-the-art access to opportunities and experiences so that our lessons are of value and create a lifelong desire for learning in the children whom we teach. The head of the school and the principal of the junior school at St Mary’s DSG Pretoria are very supportive and always open to listening to new suggestions on how we can grow ourselves professionally. St Mary’s makes each person who works there believe in themselves and their abilities. They say, ‘If she believes in herself, she will fly.’

The South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme (SAMSTIP) draws on the quality education offered by Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA) member schools to help solve a root cause of South Africa’s pressing skills shortage – the critical lack of qualified mathematics and science teachers. To learn more about the initiative, visit, or contact Lesiba Langa, the SAMSTIP operations coordinator at ISASA, at telephone: +27 (11) 648 1331.


1. The Sumbandila Scholarship Trust selects extraordinary children from backgrounds of extreme poverty and offers them a world-class education alongside a strong mentorship programme. See:

2. See:

3. See:

Category: Autumn 2020

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