Matlebyane Letsetja joined Forte High School as a TEACH ambassador in April this year. Upon arrival he noticed that there were a number of chess boards and pieces at the school, but nobody was playing. After speaking to a fellow new teacher he realised that none of the kids had any knowledge of chess but had an enthusiasm for trying new things. They took it upon themselves to get the kids involved and the Forte High School Chess Club was born.After 3 months of learning the game, it became apparent that the kids were developing at such a speed they were starting to challenge the teachers themselves. At this point Letsetja decided to enter two teams, the under 19s and under 15s, into the regional schools chess championships. It seemed like a huge challenge for the inexperienced players but the teams outperformed themselves. The Under 15’s won their first three tournaments and both went on to qualify to compete in the prestigious finals held at Pretoria University. Although the teams missed out on making the top three it was an enormous achievement, which has given the school and pupils much to celebrate.
Letsetja believes the best is still to come “This year the under 15 team is extremely good. Next year they will move up into the under 17’s category and we will have time to develop skills they hadn’t had a chance to perfect this year, such as playing under the clock. It will only take a couple of small adjustments to take them to the top. We’ll be prepared.”The passion and involvement with which Letsetja teaches both the chess club and maths stems from his days at the University of Limpopo. Whilst studying computer science he found that his grades and enthusiasm for the subject were greatly helped by the strong involvement, guidance and interaction with his teachers, both in the classroom and around campus. Communication and a good teacher-pupil relationship, he realised, were key to successful grades. Inspired by this he enrolled to become a TEACH Ambassador through TEACH.
Having only joined the program in October 2015 TEACH has already been a rewarding experience for him. “Having the experience, support and advice from TEACH during first three (training) months has been one of the biggest positives. The training was incredible and prepared us for what was ahead. It particularly prepared us for how kids can be a challenge in a teaching environment and gave us the tools to overcome it.”His advice for people considering becoming a future TEACH ambassador? “Even if you want to follow your own, non teaching career consider TEACH. It’s just two years out of your life and those 2 years will change your life. It’s so rewarding watching your pupils developing and even more so when the results come in and your pupils thank you for making that difference”.Letsetja plans to follow his passion for teaching and is currently studying for his Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).