“I’m really happy being here. When I started in 2003 they asked me if I could consider staying for a long time, I said 3 years, but 3 years was extended to 18 …”
Thembi Gumede laughs when she tells how her story with GCF started. After 10 years as a teacher in Governmental schools, she came to the organisation and has never left. Today her title is Education Co-ordinator and her main focus is the children at the centre of school-going age.
Thembi describes how the school at GCF is very different from the schools she worked at previously. Academic skills are important, but at GCF it is so much more. Children learn life skills, values and they are taught that they are valuable. They learn who they really are.
Some of the children have never been to school when they arrive at the centre, even though they should have started several years before. They cannot read or write their names. Other children have been attending school and still do so in the community, but struggle academically, often as a result of their traumatic backgrounds. These are the children Thembi works with. She facilitates normal classes until 13h00 in the days and uses the afternoons to do remedial work with the ones that need it.
Her learners are a mix of different grades and currently, she teaches 16 children from grade 1 to 9. It can be challenging, but if there is something Thembi has learned while working as a teacher at GCF, it is to be patient. She talks about her learners with pride and says that they “do wonders”. Their progress is good and the ones that had not been schooling before can jump straight into mainstream school classes after some time with her.
One of the things Thembi likes most about her job is teamwork. What she means by that is that she can refer a child who struggles in different ways to the child care or therapy department at the centre. A multi-disciplinary team then come together and they discuss how they best can assist the child. She points out how she, after many years at GCF, still learns new things regarding children.
Thembi has introduced a book called My Dream Book to her older learners. They write and draw about their past, their present and how they would like to see their lives in the future.
“I remember one girl who worked through the book and then left GCF. After some years she phones me saying “Teacher Thembi, I passed my Matric and what assisted me the most was My Dream Book.”
It makes Thembi very happy to see her present and previous learners succeed. She constantly encourages them to do their best and continue with tertiary education after completing grade 12.
She ends our conversation by saying: “I wish that God can keep me long so that I can see them achieving their goals. See them in the newspapers, meeting them along the way and in the malls.”
A dedicated and caring teacher can make miracles in a child’s life on many levels and listening to Teacher Thembi’s story indicates that she is one of them, one that changes lives.
Written by Anna-Karin Öhrnstedt