A review by Thobeka Bhengu
Shooting time: 9am-6pm
Document Mam Futhi at school and in the classroom.
Interviewing the Principal
Interviewing a Colleague
Interview 2 students: N.B provide consent form.
Document Mam Futhi after school and at her home.
The plan for the first day was as follows: Shooting at Thamela Primary School in Umlazi and at Seaview Durban. The team of three Lebo Mashifane, Malibongwe Swane and Thobeka Bhengu from Inkanyiso media arrived at Thamela Primary School at 9 am in the morning to document a prominent and dedicated educator Ntombifuthi Phewa. Thamela Primary School was established in 1971 at the time it was named Malukazi. The school currently has 2579 learners, 80 teachers and 8 food handlers, 3 cleaners and a security guard. The school has an active fundraising committee and governing body that helps with acquiring sponsors and raising funds for the school. The schoolyard is clean and seems to have adopted a very strict regimen on cleanliness and no littering.
The documenting team grouped themselves into two groups. One group focused on capturing establishing shots around the school and the second group focused on capturing Phewa in the classroom on a normal school day. Phewa is natural in the classroom, playing the role of an educator, parent, dedicated teacher and an example of a disciplined educator. This was supported by the interviewees who spoke about Phewa and her experience in teaching primary school learners.
After setting up in a mobile classroom next to Ms Phewa’s classroom, we were ready to start with the first interview. We firstly interviewed Mrs Buyi Sabela, an HOD at Thamela Primary School and Phewa’s colleague. Mrs Sabela has worked at the school since 2005. Sabela expressed her concerns about the relationship between parents, the school and parents who take little to no interest in their children’s education and the state of schools at disadvantaged communities. She also highlighted the contributions in the form of different donations from organizations and the government and the help provided by the government feeding scheme, which has been ongoing and is helpful to many learners. She spoke of the lack of certain important things such as a school hall for meetings and usage by students, the hall was converted to classrooms. She also mentioned the importance of having a library and how students would benefit from having a library and assistance in tightening security in the school.
The second interview for the day was Aphile Madela, a Grade Seven learner who talked about her experience at Thamela Primary School and spoke highly of Ms Phewa, eventhough she has never been her class teacher. We also did a quick interview with a second student Ayabonga Buthelezi, another Grade Seven learner, a very articulate young woman. Who expressed her love for the school and how the school needs a library so learners can improve their skills in reading and writing.
The final interview at the school was around 16h00 with the principal of the school Mrs Nana Masoka, who started teaching as an HOD at Thamela in the year 2001 and became principal of the school in 2013. Masoka spoke of the number of staff members in the school, the history of the school and the importance of the gender quota when they hire staff at the school. After briefly speaking about the profile of the school, Mrs Masoka spoke on improvements and challenges in the education system as we celebrate 25 years of South African democracy. She expressed how the department of education’s nutrition plan has been of great assistance to the students, textbooks provided for learners, computer lab and government support that has helped the school. On challenges facing the school, she addressed the issue of how the funding allocated by the department is unable to cover everything but can cover some expenses to improve the school. Masoka highlighted some developments that the school needs, such as the renovations to existing classrooms, extra classrooms and a need for a school hall. The principal also talked intensely about the importance of respect and discipline which are pillars of the school and are constantly instilled in the school system. Behavioural change sessions are part of the school ethos but Masoka expressed how parents need to be part of the process and deliver on what the school expects from parents of the pupils.
The principal ultimately spoke about Ms Phewa as an educator, a friend and a dedicated colleague with valuable expertise and experience in teaching. The principal arrived at the school in 2001 when Ms Phewa was already there and she was mentored by Ms Phewa. Ms Phewa shared her skills and methods on teaching and also teaching young people who struggle with their studies. She also mentioned how Ms Phewa is the only teacher at the school who is not sharing a class with other teachers as they are religiously paired.
The interviewees spoke highly of Thamela Primary School and the quality of education they are afforded at the school. All interviewees highlighted the importance of discipline and keeping a strong and healthy relationship between learners, teachers and the school. The school boasts of well-kept buildings and a clean yard, dedicated teachers, disciplined learners and quality education provided by the school. Phewa has been an educator for 26 years in South Africa. Her love for education and teaching was clearly visible in the classroom and in the way she articulated her experiences of the past 26 years. The principal of the school and the colleagues related that when they arrived at the school, Phewa was already a teacher and became a mentor to them. They detailed how she has an incredible skill for working with learners in general and learners who struggle with their studies. Her clearly untainted history of nurturing learners and being one of the most skilled educators made it easy for interviewees to talk about Phewa and her contribution to the school and the entire education system. Educators are usually overlooked and get little to no recognition for their tireless service and dedication. Educators are underrated and these stories will hopefully change this view about teachers in South Africa.
After an all-day shoot at the school, we drove to Ms Phewa’s home for an official interview. The idea was to capture Ms Phewa at home, as more than just a teacher but also as a parent and the head of her household. Phewa was born in Durban, eMbubulu and lived in Umlazi, P section. The family had to move from Umlazi in 1996 to Seaview due to political instabilities and violence between the ANC and the IFP. She has a beautiful home at Seaview with her family.. She has been at Thamela since 1994, she furthered her studies at Natal College of Education (Higher Diploma of Teaching), Toyota Teach ( Higher Certificate of Teaching) and at UNISA where she did her Bachelor of Arts and Honors. She passionately spoke about her teaching journey where she expressed her love for teaching and how teaching is a process where you contribute to the pupils and the community at large. She defined teaching as an all in one job where you have to be more than just a teacher and assume many roles to assist learners. Phewa echoed the importance of the parent, teacher and learner relationship and how the school ensures that this relationship is cemented with respect and love. As a final point, Phewa spoke on the challenges and achievements by schools and our entire education system as we celebrate 25 years of democracy. She spoke about how government social grants have assisted a majority of disadvantaged students even though others have complaints about the amount that is being received, but reiterates that the grant has helped many students. She also applauded the change of curriculum and that it has opened up for different teaching methods that assist students who are struggling and textbooks that are provided by the government. On challenges facing the school, she mentioned the issue of overcrowding and a need for a school library.
Ms Phewa is part of the 25 teachers that are currently being documented in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal as part of celebrating 25 years of democracy and giving educators a voice and recognition, they deserve. Inkanyiso team with the guidance of Sir Zanele Muholi and Muholi Productions has taken on a task to document these prominent figures and unsung heroes.
Photos by: Malibongwe Swane, Thobeka Bhengu and Terra Dick.
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