“Good Morning class,” Ms Mpitsi greeted the grade 8 C’s. She was the youngest teacher at Fundani High School and she taught history. A lot of her friends often asked why she teaches history out of the many subjects she could teach. Some could not even understand why she chose teaching out of the many options that are available in this day and age. But she always said that “I have made it my responsibility to make sure that generations that follow after me know the history and not only that of our country but that of the world. And not to only know it but to understand and love it”.
Ms Mpitsi was a very cool teacher and the learners spent their lunch break discussing her outfits. She was up to date with the latest fashion trends and she had a very strong opinion about the world and current affairs of the country. She was never shy to share her opinion with her learners; she encouraged them to know what is happening around them, to read and to never take things at surface value.
“As we all know,” she said to start the lesson, “July is Mandela Month which is usually highlighted with Mandela day, where people get to honor the father of our nation by dedicating 67 minutes of their day to doing something good for fellow South Africans.”
Ms Mpitsi continued to tell the learners that an organization will be coming to their school to paint 3 of their history classes in celebration of Mandela Day but before she could continue to tell the learners how they could participate, there was uproar amongst the learners.
“Remember, it is important to have an opinion, but it is impossible to talk over each other,” Ms Mpitsi reminded the grade 8’s the golden rule. Unlike the other teachers she had very minimal rules. As long as your work was done and neat, she was happy.
The learners could play music through their earphones while completing their class works, they could chew gum, suck on lollies as long as your work is done and neat, she would always emphasize. And as a result, most learners loved the history class and always looked forward to it.
“Yes Zama”, she said to one of the quiet learner. Sometimes she was amazed at Zama’s perspective on things but she was always impressed with her reasoning.
“Maam,” Zama started. Her stuttering voice was the main reason she preferred to keep quiet in classes, “Why do we only celebrate Tata Mandela as our hero? What about the other heroes we have learned about in our history books?”
“Yes!” the class cheered in agreement with Zama.
“We will take all the questions and then have a discussion at the end in attempt to answer them,” Ms Mpitsi said. The learners loved the discussions, one of the learners said they made him feel like they are part of a panel that changes the world.
“What celebrations are put in place to honor other heroes?” asked Tebogo, the cool kid of the school. Outside the history class he was the guy every girl wanted, the way he switched into a young revolutionary when he got to the history class always surprised Ms Mpitsi.
Masego, the school poet and head of the debate team asked, “If the organization comes to paint three classes, what about the rest of the school?”
“Ok, I think we have enough questions to start our discussion. You have all raised and asked very important points and I think you have the ability to make suggestions as answers to the questions” Ms Mpitsi said. She always told the other teachers that the secret to successful learners and impressive results is to complement the learners on the work they have done. That encourages them to do more.
The class discussions were always led by the learners, Ms Mpitsi will only come in if the chaos was unbearable. After accumulating the questions, the learners would elect a committee made up of a scribe, who would stand by the chalk board and try to write as many of the learners’ opinions, a chairperson who will select who speaks next, and a jury of three people who will choose one of the suggested solutions ad give reasons. Every learners wanted to be a part of the jury, they had the true power.
The chairperson opened the discussion by asking Katlego to speak and he highlighted that South Africa has more than 12 heroes, so maybe each month can be dedicated to a hero. Another learner said that if more heroes are celebrated then more classes can be painted and more good deeds can be done. The discussion went on and Ms Mpitsi sat at the corner beaming like a proud parent. She was impressed with her learners’ suggestions and as the bell rang she decided to tell them a surprise she had been burning to share with them the whole week.
“Ok, 8C,” Ms Mpitsi called out, “The jury will announce their decision at the start of the next class, for now I have something to share. As part of my Mandela Day celebration, I have managed to get the principal to allow me to treat all the Grade 8’s to a day at the museum. To learn more about the history of our country”, Ms Mpitsi said to a class that was now cheering as she handed out indemnity forms for parents to sign.
“Where are my friends now?” she asked herself as the last learner walked out of the class, waving her indemnity form with joy.
Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo