The Unpredictable Journey

My name is Ongezwa Gedezana. I was born on 6 February 1999 in a small town in the Karoo called Colesberg.

There I grew up in an old township called eThuthwini. I was raised by my middle-class parents who wanted me to get an education and to learn to be independent. During my schooling journey while I was growing up, things went well until 2016, when I lost my father.

The situation was devastating because we experienced financial difficulties. There was only one income stream from my mother who was an educational practitioner at one of the early childhood development centres in Colesberg.

The following year I matriculated from Umso High School. I was accepted at the University of the Free State to study agronomy and agricultural economics, but again I encountered challenges that kept me from continuing with my degree. It was devastating again because I could not pursue what I was passionate about.

A blessing in disguise

Ongezwa Gedezana and the SAMSTIP ProgrammeMoving back home was unexpected, because it was not part of my plan, but it was a blessing in disguise, as it gave me time and opportunity to reflect and discover who I am. I realised I could still work towards a Bachelor of Science General (BSc) by teaching sciences in secondary schools. On one special day in 2018, I came across the ISASA South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme (SAMSTIP), while I was in a community library searching for available bursaries.

On the same day I applied online for SAMSTIP, prior to the closing date, which was on 15 May 2018. If my memory serves me well, it took about a week or two for me to get a positive response that I was one of the candidates selected to participate in the SAMSTIP programme.

The programme organisers asked me to complete a written assessment and then after another two weeks, I was scheduled to participate in an interview. That was the turning point of my life, as the outcome of the interview granted me an opportunity to pursue my hidden career.

In September of the same year, the SAMSTIP organisers told me to apply for admission at the University of South Africa (Unisa) since the SAMSTIP programme requires that its participants be full-time teacher interns in the field whilst also studying through Open Distance eLearning (ODeL) for a degree.

In 2019, I became a teacher intern at an ISASA member school, Cedarwood College, in Kyalami in Gauteng. After some time, I relocated to a former ISASA school, Doxa Deo Edendale Independent High School, in Pretoria.

Powerful support

The kind of mentorship that I received from both schools was empowering, as I was exposed to different school environments, cultures and operational teaching systems. Lindi Mashabane, the youth worker at Doxa Deo Edendale Independent High School, mentored me spiritually, emotionally and psychologically, and made me believe in myself despite all the challenges that I had faced. She taught me to believe that I am wired to teach the sciences.

I still receive support and love from SAMSTIP and ISASA. Currently, I am in my third year of my studies, and I hope that I will make it to my fourth year next year with the kind of support that I am receiving from SAMSTIP and the school in which I currently teach.

In conclusion, I am grateful that God led me to ISASA and SAMSTIP. I now know I can contribute to creating teaching and learning cultures in any school I might teach in.

I hope to transmit my love for mathematics and science to as many learners as possible.