Palesa Mokwena

Ordinary Heroes aka TEACH Ambassadors

Who are you and what place do you call home?

I am Palesa Mokwena and I am from Bronkhorstspruit.

What did you graduate with?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Food Sciences from the University of Pretoria.

What were you planning to do with your qualification? What were your dreams?

I wanted to make a change in the food industry; I wanted to improve the way we prepare our food. Our modern lifestyles are very demanding and they leave very little time for food preparation. I wanted to reduce the time it takes to prepare a decent home cooked meal.

Why did you decide to become an Ambassador, why did you become a teacher?

I wanted to make a difference in the Food Industry, but then I found myself working a job that did not make me feel like I was making a difference. I was working very long hours in a laboratory environment, it was quite isolated and I did not have much contact with people. A friend told me about TEACH South Africa and encouraged me to apply. I wanted to break the monotony in my life and do something different, challenging and exciting.

What have been your challenges as an Ambassador placed in a school and how have you overcome them?

I had to adjust from working in a laboratory environment to working in a school environment. I went from working in a well-resourced laboratory, with professional adults and fixed scientific instruments and procedures; to working in a school environment where resources were not readily available, with children that have a variety of behavioural issues and a social organism (the school) that was in constant flux. I realised that I had to think out of the box; I had to think Outside of Myself. I did the only thing left for a scientist to do and that was experiment. My conclusions were that there is no one fixed way to deal with people; what works for one person will not necessarily work for the other. So I had to take things and people as they came. I had to find unique solutions to the unique challenges that I faced. This has helped with my own character development and has equipped me with skills, in a very short space of time, that otherwise might have taken a life time to acquire.

What have you found to be the most rewarding thing about being a TEACH Ambassador?

Getting love and appreciation from leaners was the biggest reward for me. I know that I am making a difference and having a positive influence in their lives. Going beyond the curriculum and grading; helping them find and do things they never know they could do before is definitely rewarding. It gives me a sense of being in a symbiotic relationship with the learners, as much as I facilitate lessons to them; I also receive lessons from them.

What is your vision in life and how does education fit into it?

My vision is to change learner’s mind-sets about education. To get them thinking differently about education; get them thinking positively. Even though I do not plan to be in the classroom for the rest of my career, I still want to influence and motivate young people to get an education.  I envision a society where people are not scared of knowing better and possibly doing better. I envision a society that empowers itself using education and the building of that society happens one learner at time.

If you had to give someone one reason to become an Ambassador or help in the education space; what would it be?

It is the best thing you can do for yourself and others. Changing lives is truly one of the most rewarding experiences open to us as human beings. I believe, that if you change the life of a child, that child has the potential to change the lives of a family and be a role model to many. And the lives changed and influenced by that child have the potential to change other lives. So I choose to see Education as the gift that keeps on giving.

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