Thamsanqa Vezi, a 27-year-old educator at Velabahleke High School is among the teachers who are flying uMlazi Township’s flag high, after the school obtained a 100% pass mark. An actuarial scientist by profession is driven by the passion for the betterment of black learners, Vezi left his corporate job as an Actuarial Analyst to teach mathematics at his former school. He shared his story with The Daily Vox.
I was born and bred in uMlazi and went to school in the same township throughout my schooling years. I matriculated in 2009 and went to the University of Cape Town (UCT) where I studied mathematics and statistics with a focus on actuarial science. I graduated in 2013.
After having spent two years in a corporate environment, I moved on to teaching. I used to work for SASRIA Insurance company and later moved to Nedbank.
Early January in 2017 I was contacted by a friend of mine who was the science head of the department in Velabahleke told me a story of how a group of students who are in grade eleven was without a maths teacher. I don’t know whether he was telling me this because he knew I have an interest in working with young people or they really couldn’t find a teacher.
He asked me if it would be possible to give some of my time to these students, just to help them obtain better marks. Strange enough, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it and I just considered it. The schools had opened already and the learners were without a teacher. My manager was not happy when I resigned because she knew it’s a struggle to get someone in that department, but I had already made up my mind.
The biggest challenge I encountered was the fact that students were very weak in mathematics, I had to invest a lot of time and effort. I had to have classes even on weekends, and that also became another challenge when some parents couldn’t understand why their children had to attend evening and weekend classes. However, being driven by passion made me look past those challenges and soldier on, and I’m proud to say my efforts paid off.
Also, teaching in an environment like a township is not easy due to numerous factors. There was an incident where I had confiscated a phone of a learner, and on that day, a group of guys who are outsiders came into the school hoping to get to me but luckily, I wasn’t around. That was just one case though, we don’t really have many of those in our schools because we do all we can to maintain order and discipline.
I don’t regret my decision ever. Some people around me were affected by it but it was about me and what I believe in, which is uplifting black children to do better. Even if I had to go back and decide again, I’d still make the same decision. I’m more interested in trying to move these learners into becoming better people in large numbers. Being part of the educators that worked hard to ensure that the school obtains a hundred percent pass mark makes me proud because we worked extremely hard.
People need to understand that working as an educator in a township setting is not easy because we force them to learn. We are in the heart of one of the most disruptive environments in the country, so for these learners to make it we have to force them to study.
I am just really happy that once again they did us proud. I would also encourage other people to give back to their communities by sharing knowledge, but in the case of teaching, it would have to be someone with the passion for others’ betterment.
As for the learners who will be heading to universities, I wish to advise them that it’s very important to make the right choice of your own when deciding on career path to follow. This is so that even in tough times one can have the fuel to soldier on because no one made the decision for them.
When going into a new environment, it’s very important to ensure that one remains true to themselves and their values. Do not try to fit into a completely foreign culture just so you can be part of a group.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.