The realities of teaching: our conversation with Mlungisi Magagula

20160711_101511Mlungisi Magugula currently teaches at Kwazamokuhle secondary school. He is studying towards his Bachelors in education (B.ed) at Wits University and is also a part-time student at UNISA. During our Axis Summit this July, he presented a workshop on confronting the hard realities of teaching. In our conversation below, he speaks about his experiences as a young educator. 

How did you first get interested in education?

In high school, my history teacher was one of the best teachers I’d ever had.  But unfortunately, during my matric year, he passed away. That made my interest in education grow, because I wanted to carry on in his spirit and honour his contribution to my life.

How does your upbringing influence your work?

Luckily enough, I teach in my former school and in my community. So I can relate to my students and understand the struggles they deal with. For instance, some of my learners are heading their families, and some come from poverty-stricken homes. I understand that because I was once there.

Growing up, I also noticed the shortage of local teachers in my school and community. With my work, I want to fill that gap and inspire a lot of young people to take our community, and South Africa at large, to greater heights.

What do you think is missing from most people’s educational experience?

Most students are taught by teachers who believe in the traditional way: the teacher is the master of everything and delivers content to the learners, who are just empty vessels waiting to fill with knowledge. Most miss the point that there is a distinction between acquiring knowledge and being educated.

What do you wish society or politicians understood about the teaching profession?

I wish they understood that teaching is the mother of all professions. Without teaching, we couldn’t have any of the other professions. That means teaching must be dignified. Teachers deserve to be appreciated.

At the Axis Summit, you presented a workshop about the hard realities that come with being a teacher. What are some of these challenges?

Before becoming a teacher, it never occurred to me that the role of a teacher goes beyond the perimeters of the classroom. To some learners, we are the parents, brothers and sisters they never had.

It’s especially difficult to also teach learners who have started to give up. Many of my learners have been given such negative labels by society. It’s hard to convince them that these labels aren’t true.

What rule do you have for yourself as a teacher?

My golden rule as a teacher is “I care. That’s why I teach.”