Teach to inspire by Maano Ramadwa (self-published)
There are few books that really provide a firsthand account of working in South African schools. There are even fewer books on the subject written from a teacher’s perspective. This is why Maano Ramadwa’s book is so important. He uses his experiences to illustrate the challenges teachers face in schools, particularly poorly resourced schools in underdeveloped areas.
The book starts with Ramadwa’s personal experience of high school; he was 23 years old in grade 12. He says this is not unusual in township schools, and that when he was a teacher, and later a principal, he admitted older learners into his school. This highlights how difficult it is for those who choose to return to school despite being older than their classmates. Ramadwa also talks about how his decision to become a teacher came about when he was still at school, though a relationship he had formed with one of his teachers.
Ramadwa chronicles his experiences of being a teacher through anecdotes and lessons he learned along the way. His journey begins at Supreme Educational College in Joubert Park, a low-cost private school. The school only paid teachers if and when it had money to do so.
Reading this reminded me of some friends of mine who had similar experiences while working in Eastern Cape schools. Few teachers in privileged schools know about such problems, but they are fairly commonplace for teachers in poor areas. Ramadwa’s attitude to the problem is illuminating: he still puts his learners first and maintains his professionalism. He never uses the fact that he has not been paid as an excuse to not teach them to the best of his abilities.
While at CJ Botha Secondary School in Bosmont, Ramadwa faced a challenge teachers in the 1990s often experienced: taking up a post though he was not a specialist in the subjects he was required to teach. The school wanted an Afrikaans teacher and one who could teach the new subjects of Life Orientation and Arts and Culture. The transition into Outcomes Based Education forced many teachers into difficult decisions to fulfil curriculum requirements. Ramadwa took advantage of the changes to learn new things as a teacher.
Glimpses into the classroom
His book helps everybody involved in education, particularly teachers who want to know what everyday teaching in the classroom is actually like. It’s helpful for new teachers and those who have been in the profession for years and may be feeling a bit stale in their methods. It may even help academics and researchers in the field of education. Ramadwa writes honestly about the challenges South African principals face, which helps to explain the decisions they take.
As a teacher, his experiences helped me value the work I do and realise what a privilege it is to work with the youth. Despite it’s challenges, teaching is often a life-changing experience for both teachers and learners.
Athambile Masola teaches at St Mary’s School in Waverley, in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs