A few weekends of teaching maths to township learners was enough to convince Bafana Lukhele that teaching is his first love
He could have easily become an accountant, which pays far better than teaching. But Bafana Lukhele followed his heart and took up teaching, a decision he does not regret. His passion for teaching developed when he was part of a Wits voluntary programme, where every weekend students provided extra maths tuition for four hours to learners from Alexandra and other nearby township schools. He enjoyed the vibrant and enriching interactions with the learners and immediately realised he was cut out for teaching.
“I enjoyed what I was doing and it didn’t take me long to choose teaching as a career,” says Lukhele proudly. He says the other factor that sealed it for him was the fact that as a maths teacher he still finds time to get involved in accounting, his other passion.
Lukhele is now teaching maths and maths literacy to senior and FET phase classes at Batswana Commercial High in Mafikeng, North West. Before this, Lukhele was an intern for a year at the prestigious Hilton College in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. The internship was the product of a partnership between the department of basic education and the Independent Schools Association of South Africa’s maths and English programme. As part of the partnership, student teachers on the department’s Funza Lushaka bursary programme are placed at selected private schools to gain practical skills by observing experienced teachers in action in the classroom.
Lukhele hails the internship programme, saying it provides a perfect learning opportunity for teachers entering the profession. He says the important element of the programme is that it touches on critical aspects such as school governance and classroom management, and these help produce “grounded, and well-rounded teachers”.
Public versus private
He describes the transition from Hilton College to his current school as challenging: “At Hilton you have excellent facilities and good support systems for both teachers and learners. This differs substantially from the set-up in public schools, where things are structured differently. Even the learning environments are worlds apart.”
He says the socioeconomic realities in public schools are quite stark and often spill into the classroom. “You find yourself dealing with a range of non-curricular issues, which impact negatively on learning. But the support from my head of department as well as the entire staff helped me ease into the new environment.”
In the beginning language was a bit of a problem, because learners at Batswana Commercial High predominantly speak seTswana. “Speaking to them in English created sort of a gulf between us, and I felt I did not connect well with them. But I have since learned a few basic words in their language, and this has made a huge difference because the learners are now free to open up and confide in me,” says Lukhele.
Making maths fun
As a maths teacher, Lukhele says he tries to motivate his learners to view maths as part of their everyday lives. “I emphasise the point that maths is all about problem solving, and I use a range of approaches such as fun activities and mystery numbers to make the subject relate to the real world.”
Lukhele says choosing teaching was the best decision he ever made. “I find it personally rewarding, in that I help young people fulfil their dreams as well as reach their potential. I also like the fact that maths forms part of accounting, and this means I am not completely lost to accounting. I regard myself as a social entrepreneur and accounting helps to accomplish some of the goals related to entrepreneurship.”
He says aspirant teachers must be prepared to work hard, be open-minded and see themselves as life-long learners. “Always keep in mind that what you do every day is like planting a seed that will germinate into a tree, which will in turn bear fruit.”