During this pandemic, many frontliners have given their best effort. We have celebrated our medical team. We have relied on our delivery team to deliver food and necessities. One of the essential frontline roles that we mustn’t forget is our teachers.
I am honoured to have a chat with Maipelo, a talented young woman who is changing our world by passing down knowledge to the next generations.
Please introduce yourself, and where are you from?
I am Maipelo Lekgowa, a lady living in Gaborone, Botswana. I have 4 sisters and an amazing selfless, beautiful twin sister. So I have a large family, holidays are never quiet.
I majored in English and Sociology for my degree and have a postgraduate diploma in education. I love to read and hope to become a writer one day. In my free time, I paint. I work out most of the days, and I am a firm believer that you reap what you sow. What you put out into the universe will come back tenfold.
What do you like about being a teacher?
I like being a teacher because I am not just a teacher; I am a mother, sister, counsellor, and peace for some students. I wear many different hats for different students. I also get to experience life in the eyes of my students. Everything is new and exciting for them, which makes me see things from a different perspective.
Most importantly, I get to make a difference in a small way, educate kids, and make the system work. I know education is an ever-evolving world isn’t much these days, more so that there are so many unconventional ways to earn money. Still, it’s necessary to break cycles in our part of the world, and education breaks those cycles.
How do you become a teacher in Botswana? Any relevant degree you need to hold? Skillsets?
To become a teacher, you can study bachelor of education or do a postgraduate diploma in education on top of your degree. I would say the skill a person would need is passion and patience.
So why do you choose to work as a teacher? Why 6 years old students?
In my previous job, I travelled a lot. On one of the trips, we went to the remote parts of Botswana, where I witnessed poverty and many children having no interest in school or just education in general. They just didn’t realise how education can change their lives. I was heartbroken as education is free in my country, including college.
So I thought to myself, how could I make a real difference? That’s how I became a teacher. I didn’t choose to teach a bunch of 6-year-olds; it kind of chose me. I was covering for an absent teacher for a semester/term, and my class went from 79% pass to 100% pass. I enjoyed it so much, and so I stayed.
How important do you think a teacher is?
I think a teacher is critical, dare I say irreplaceable, even because they play a crucial role in developing a child. A teacher advises the child, teaches social responsibilities and manners, educate the syllabus, play, feed e.t.c all these simply cannot be covered by the home school or e-learning.
I like being a teacher because I am not just a teacher; I am a mother, sister, counsellor, and peace for some students.
How have Covid-19 impacted you as a teacher?
Covid-19 has made teaching difficult; humans are touchy social species now try teaching a bunch of 6-year-olds not to touch you or each other or books, surfaces, and food; it is challenging but doable.
I can’t give out homework regularly because marking and sanitising after each book is not as practical as you would think and a laborious experience. The upside is that I teach fewer classes, unlike before, where I taught 42 students.
How have Covid-19 impacted your students? What was done to help them to continue learning?
Covid-19 has affected my students because I cannot have an entire class every other week. Someone is always in quarantine, so learning is complex for them since they are young, so lack of consistency means confusing things.
I constantly use Whatsapp to teach, I send work on it, and they do it at home. I am also in constant communication with parents, so learning isn’t as tricky.
It is difficult for my students to not be in school. They often miss their friends, the school setting and the learning.
What difference did you make in your students’ lives?
I started this year with 30 students from different backgrounds. Amongst my students, I have one particular student who is repeating this standard for the third time, comes from an impoverished background with absolutely zero confidence, does not speak much and has health issues.
I honestly had no idea of helping her. I just gave her a little extra work, encouraged her to speak up when she chose to, I kept telling her she is smart, rewarded her when she did well with candy. I even bought her stationery. I thought I wasn’t doing much, and sometimes I would feel discouraged.
Then one day, out of the blue, she knew how to count with her fingers. She actually stood up and started counting loudly in her own voice. At that moment, I could have started crying right there and then, I had to physically pinch myself to stop from crying.
I was unbelievably proud the whole day. Nothing could change my mood. It may seem like teaching isn’t much. Some even call it a humble profession, but the fulfilment of knowing that you are changing someone’s life is unmatched.
I witnessed poverty and many children having no interest in school or just education in general. They just didn’t realise how education can change their lives.
Please share with us any interesting stories or people you have encountered at work?
In my line of work, I don’t get to meet a lot of people because of covid-19, so not many people are allowed on campus, but last year after my class was the best in the entire school, I got to meet the Minister when I was presented with the great performance award. I was very excited about that.
What is the career prospect of this job?
Being a teacher, senior teacher, head of department, deputy principal and then the school head. I love children and helping, but 5 years from now, I want to have written and successfully publish a self-help book about mental health and its different forms and patterns.
What does passion mean to you?
Passion is pursuing what you love relentlessly. I would like to think that I am, amidst my busy schedule, I write other people’s work to improve my writing skills, diversify my skills, and make passive income.
If you are not a teacher, what do you think you could have become?
When I was younger, I used to love art well I still do. I studied it for 5 years, all through high school. I imagine I would have been a painter.
Any last words for someone who aspires to be a teacher?
I would like to think teaching is a calling. If you don’t like children, introverted or like speaking at all, then stay away from it. Still, if you love the wholesome love of children, the fulfilment of educating and moulding a person to be a responsible citizen, then go ahead and have the time of your life.