|27 Sep 2023|
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize|
Born in Mphanama Village, Sekhukhune, Limpopo Province, South Africa, Mokolwane Masweneng is an English teacher at Dithothwaneng Secondary School in the village. After finishing his secondary education in 2000 at grade 12, he did not have money to go to college or university as his parents were unemployed. He looked after his father’s cattle for years in the hope of one day going to university to study and become a teacher. He started a free tutoring programme to assist learners who were doing grade 12 from 2001 until 2011; his father selling two cows to register him at Pietersburg College to keep him motivated. Among the learners he tutored then, many are qualified professionals today, and include lawyers, teachers, accountants and managers. When his sister qualified for a scholarship, graduated and became a social worker, this encouraged him to apply and register for his bachelor’s degree in education with Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand to become a qualified teacher.
As a tutor, Mokolwane appreciated the need for development in rural communities in South Africa, and has taken it upon himself to become an agent for change in this, in particular in terms of girls’ education, pursuing activities in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 sustainable development agenda, tackling negative attitudes and cultural practices which prevent female participation in education and social activities. This includes confronting the rural community tradition of seeing female education as unimportant and girls as fit only for domestic chores on the road to becoming wives and mothers. Mokolwane has tackled the rural school dropout issues around teenage pregnancy and lack of sanitary towels, campaigning for the donation of these products for girls. He runs enrichment classes and tutoring in his village every Saturday to bridge the gap of inequality between rural and urban learners. Donating sanitary towels and school uniforms to his poorest learners to restore their dignity and confidence at the same time reduces the potential for bullying and creates a sense of equality and unity between students.
Subjects and activities on offer in his classes are open to boys and girls, but he encourages girls to pursue activities traditionally monopolised by boys such as soccer and performing arts, managing to produce women soccer national team players and professional soccer players today. His provision of rural education and pursuit of gender equality is assisted by technology resources and applications in the classroom to teach and to connect with teachers from around the world. Despite their rural isolation and lack of resources at home, via Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams his students learn about different food, languages, dress code and culture, national symbols, exchange of national anthems, respect for humanity and empathy. Against a backdrop of scarce facilities, resourceful Mokolwane uses a white cloth to project lessons. His embrace of tech has influenced fellow teachers in his country to use it to connect with their counterparts from around the world, as he hosts and organises education seminars at community, school, national and international level to empower educators on issues that affect them daily, and on how to integrate ICT into learning and teaching. He has also established a greening project to cultivate empathy with girls at the forefront, and to augment learners’ knowledge of food production while stimulating a desire to create home gardens which help offset hunger and poverty in rural areas.