Teacher to Teacher: Tsholofelo Lechuti

Growing up, Tsholofelo Lechuti was an inquisitive child who always questioned everything in her path. Being fortunate that her grandmother exposed her to the world of words at a tender age, she fell in love with reading.
Now on the educational front – she never actually thought that she would become a teacher. But upon completing her Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Linguistics, it was requested that she become a tutor for the first year students in the Communications Department.  
What followed was an internship with the Department of Health at the Provincial Office – but something just did not feel right – she just didn’t feel challenged. This lead to her enrolment in a teaching course, and well, 6 years and 8 months later, we at Teacha! have had the honour of interviewing this fantastic winner of the North West National Teacher Award.
So, firstly Tsholofelo, you previously stated that you never intended on becoming a teacher. Apart from the challenges that are inevitable in education, what else pointed you in the direction to become a teacher?
I became a teacher out of curiosity and I really felt the need for growth as I had felt stagnated in my job. Consequently, looking back now, I realise that I was always destined to become a teacher. Even before I was given the task to be a tutor to those first year students, as a child, I could always be found in the front of the class teaching my peers. Today I understand that it really is a calling for me.
Tsholofelo, I love that and I believe that this “calling” you speak of is something that we, in the education field, completely understand! Many of us don’t quite know how we ended up in the classroom – but one thing is for sure, being a teacher can be the most rewarding of jobs.
That being said, what do you love most about being a teacher?
I’m a very conscientious person, so what really humbles me about my calling, is to hear one of my Grade 11 or 12 learners say, “Ma’am I have made it! I’m now in university, thanks to you!” – To allow myself to be used as an instrument to awaken a child’s dream it’s the most fulfilling task ever. To see a child erupting from a state of confusion, and beaming with confidence, indicating that they understand – that for me is a piece of heaven.
Now, Tsholofelo, A congratulations is in order!  It really is quite an achievement to be presented with a Provincial National Teaching Award – and the fact that you are a mere 28 years of age certainly reiterates that you are a born teacher. Please tell us more about your wonderful achievement.
I am thrilled to have been nominated this year and ecstatic that I won. The National Teaching Awards is an initiative that recognises excellent teachers who are boundary-less, those who go beyond the call of duty for the betterment of our country’s future. A few of the standing highlights of my winning profile was that I  was able to converted an old non-functioning computer lab into a library and I further liaised with the District Office for my school to receive books. I went on to liaise with the Department of Road and Safety, and was able to establish a strong debate team that has since been successfully competing for the past 3 years. Today my learners have a space not only to read but to access a wide range of reading materials as well.
Fantastic! I believe that you will continue to inspire those both inside and outside of your classroom! Now if you were to become the Minister of Education in South Africa, what changes would you make?
If I were to be the Minister of Education I would certainly amend the current teaching curriculum. Not only am I a teacher, I am also a researcher who is currently completing a Masters degree in Communication with a thesis that focuses primarily on the role of ICT and participatory communication in education. It is disheartening to find out that South Africa’s education system performs worse than poorer nations such as Zimbabwe and Kenya.
Most importantly I would like to ensure that teachers are supported – with key reference to skill development workshops and teachers’ needs. In most cases decisions are taken from the national level without a detailed plan on how to successfully cascade them to teachers and support them in dealing with the after effects of the proposed drastic changes. With these few adjustments, I believe that we can do better for our teachers and ultimately our children.
I agree and wouldn’t be surprised if we see your name on the Education Bill in the near future!
Lastly, do you have any advice for teachers? Especially in connection with the lack of resources available to us?
In the great words of Frank Wright, ‘you have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having”… Conditions will not always be conducive, but what matters is how you use what you already have in order to gain what is needed and what you desire.
As a teacher you need to be aligned with excellence. Creativity remains a driving force and I therefore urge all teachers to be creative: establish libraries, start reading clubs, build a learning culture in your school! The world is evolving daily, so as a teacher, remain a lifetime researcher and a lifetime learner in order to move with the times…
This interview first appeared in Teacha! Magazine. Read or download it here.

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