Dedication to a Selfless, Passionate Teacher

Today I want to honour an amazing woman. Sophia is a Zimbabwean teacher who has been in our country for close on ten years. We became friends when she was doing char work at one of our local guest houses.

Here is a teacher who sacrificed her comfort to be of service to our country and to create a better future for her own children. For several years the only work she could find was at a guest house. Sophia never complained. She worked long hours doing work well beneath her qualifications and experience.

Eventually she found a teaching job. Despite her years of experience in teaching in the Cambridge system she only finds work in our previously disadvantaged areas.  As she is a foreigner she has never been appointed permanently. She is always given roles and positions that not many others would take on.

Sophia has worked in unsafe areas. Most mornings she is up early catching a taxi to the local station. From there her journey continues by train, with more lifts closer to her destination. Her daily trip on local transport is 3-4 hours a day.

At many schools she contends with classes of 45-60 learners. She teaches at schools where learners come from truly difficult backgrounds. At the school she taught at last year a gangster came in with a parent and beat up one of the boys in front of the whole class. For the first time she was fearful for her own safety.

So why is Sophia so precious? She gives me a glimpse into her everyday life. She talks about her experiences in a way that is so accepting. There is no drama. There is no victim. There is no anger. “It is what it is”.

She stands in for our local teachers who fail to do their work. She does their work or supports and helps those who are in higher positions than her, but actually ill-equipped to do the work. She bears no grudges. I never sense resentment in her voice.

At times she is pressurised by other teachers to join a union. In her quiet way she says she does not work like that. If she has a problem she talks to the headmaster. Her peers cannot understand when she says that she accepted the position on certain terms and so bides by those.

Some learners are disrespectful and un-co-operative. But Sophia has learnt not to sweat the small stuff. It is matter of time before they treat her like a mother, someone who truly cares for them. She uses her money to buy school clothes for children or to help them out with food. She accepts them as they are but also encourages them to do better and to reach higher.

When I contacted Sophia when she returned to Zimbabwe for her December vacation, I could hear that despite the problems in her country, her heart was at peace. If she had her way she would return home permanently to run her own business. But for now it is not meant to be as she supports her family. She commented often on how peaceful it was there.

Sophia returned to South Africa with no job lined up. Today she made my day when she said she was offered a job at her last school again. She was at the school for only one year. One of the learners had told her that the final year learners had asked the headmaster why she was not back at the school this year! What greater accolade can you receive than to have learners ask for you to return?

Sophia is a true teacher at heart. She touches others’ lives through her unconditional acceptance. She does her work more than thoroughly and is always willing to help her peers or seniors. Wherever she goes she leaves a mark – a footprint of someone with integrity and compassion.

I feel immensely blessed to have her as a friend. What started out as me giving her a lift home because she was carrying heavy parcels, has turned into a precious friendship. I am privileged to be a witness to her life and to be allowed to journey with her during her stay in South Africa.

One day soon I hope she will be blessed to return home to realise her dream of starting her own business.



Posted in Heart and soul stories.