Sibusiso Sebeko is the Future Leaders Programme Site Manager at LEAP 5 in Limpopo, where he also teaches and co-facilitates Life Orientation classes. In our conversation below, he speaks about his experiences working as a young teacher in education.
What are some of the biggest issues concerning education in South Africa today?
Twenty years after apartheid has ended, unfortunately, I think that there are only pockets of progress in my country: some places, there is transformational change, some places there’s not. We are not equal in terms of accessing opportunities. There is still lots do in making sure that everyone is on the same level, and all of that starts with how everyone is educated. Knowing this, the GTI initiative is long overdue. The challenges have been here for a very long time and the GTI is trying to address them.
Why is it so hard to find young people who want to become teachers?
In our country, the unattractiveness of the teaching profession is a huge concern for young people. Teaching is seen as a job for people who are not interested in other fields, for people who are optionless. It has not been seen as real work where you can be innovative and really make things happen. When you’re young like me, you are made to think there is less that you can get out of teaching compared to other professions.
I think that GTI programs have done a lot for making the teaching profession attractive to young people. It has enabled so many young people like myself who were unsure about the profession to make an active choice, and not only use teaching as their back-up plan. It’s made us see ourselves as transformative leaders first, teachers second. It’s made us understand that teaching is not only a job, but a way of being an agent for social change.
What do you consider your biggest success from your work as a teacher?
Through these programs, I think I’ve been able to gain respect, not only as a teacher but as a young man in my community. In our society, men are sometimes perceived as people who don’t care, people who are abusers or perpetrators of crime. I hope to shift that mindset and show others that there are men who are positive minded and are very hopeful of the future.
I think I show what can become of a person if you’re in the right space and have the right mind. Through this work, I have earned that respect, and that to me is enough in terms of being rewarded. If one person is empowered through my presence in the class, or whatever I impart, that’s success for me.
What are your dreams for the students you teach?
My dream is for them to realize that all of us have a gift, and that gift is within us. I think for a very long time, people have ignored their gifts, or perceived “gifts” only in a materialistic way. I think my dream is for students to realize that they do have the potential to do things, with or without money or material resources. I want to realize that potential within myself and within the people around me.