Growing up in the dusty, rural village of Gaphaahla, Limpopo, surrounded by female relatives who were all domestic workers, Setlogane Manchidi could easily have followed the same path as most of the village men and become a gardener.
Instead, he had teachers who saw potential in him – and a mother who never stopped telling him education was important – which led to his pursuing university studies, despite the odds against him.
Manchidi, now head of corporate social investment at Investec, paid homage to all teachers countrywide on Thursday night, 18 October, at the very first “teachers’ appreciation evening” held by the School of Accounting at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
The function, inspired by World Teachers’ Day earlier this month, had as its centre piece a colourful “wall” of handwritten notes of appreciation from Eastern Cape grade 11 pupils to their teachers. The evening’s purpose was to recognise the role teachers play as agents of change in society, developing future leaders who will make a meaningful contribution to the economy.
“As much as education is key to everything, teachers are key to education,” said Manchidi, the motivational speaker for the evening. “Teachers are among the most important nation builders… The country looks to you to guide people such as myself, those who hang on to hope. We need to celebrate the profession that creates other professionals.”
He encouraged teachers to teach from their hearts, not just from their books. “We might not remember what you told us but we will always remember how you made us feel.”
He said teachers were in a position to help pupils make meaningful decisions about their future careers. “Remind your learners that when it comes to making career choices, they mustn’t ask: ‘What does South Africa need?’ or ‘What does the world need?’. They should rather ask: ‘What makes me come alive?’”
The evening’s organiser Ansulene Prinsloo, an Accounting 1 lecturer, said teachers seldom got the thanks they deserved. “We rely on the hard work and dedication of all teachers, but specifically maths and accounting teachers. Without dedicated teachers, our role to develop future professional accountants would be compromised.”
She said a secondary purpose of the evening was to cement links between the School of Accounting and maths and accounting teachers from the university’s feeder schools.
Commenting on the evening, Woodridge teacher Lisa O’Grady said: “Sometimes you need someone from outside to remind you that you do make a difference.”
Lindelwa Ngqina, a teacher from Ethembeni Enrichment Centre, said the evening was “so interesting and motivating”. “Teachers need such motivation. Sometimes we take strain and feel like giving up.” Her colleague Ntomboxolo Kula said the wall of notes from pupils to teachers was a reminder of the impact teachers make on their learners. “You are not just a teacher, you are a social worker, mother and friend.”
Masiphathisane High School teacher Nosipho Ralane said words could not express how she felt about the thank you notes from pupils. “To hear, in your absence, that they appreciate you – I am so excited and so happy.”
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