by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – THE hardships Mokhudu Cynthia Machaba endured growing up are not for the fainthearted.
She struggled to get an education and when she eventually did, the school was far and lacked facilities.
Machaba would go barefooted.
Falling pregnant at the age of 15 appeared a death knell.
However, to say she overcame those challenges is an understatement.
The Limpopo-born is on the verge of being recognised as the world’s best teacher.
A foundation phase teacher at Ngwanamago Primary School in Polokwane, she has been shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2020.
This comes after her selection from over 12 000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.
She is a top ten finalist for the global prize, established by the Varkey Foundation, and held in partnership with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Now in its sixth year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind.
This is to an extent befitting recognition of her conquering the odds stacked against her while growing up.
When she returned to school a year following her pregnancy, with help from her mother, she excelled in her exams, becoming the top student in her classes.
Due to a lack of financial support, she needed various jobs to support herself.
Undertaking domestic work at the age of 19 to fund her studies persuaded her parents how serious she was, and eventually, she was able to go to a technical college to study childcare, followed by Soweto College of Education for a teaching qualification.
Another setback, it took five years for Machaba to get a job as a teacher because South Africa had so many qualified yet unemployed teachers.
As the eldest in the family, she had to take care of her siblings by working as a street vendor.
Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO, is hopeful Machaba’s story would inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also highlight the incredible work teachers do all over South Africa and throughout the world daily.
“Congratulations to Mokhudu Cynthia Machaba for being selected as a top ten finalist from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers,” Giannini said.
Machaba is recognized for her commitment to ensure the hardships she went through do not befall her students.
Starting with the use of a single cellphone for Internet access in class, she obtained laptops from the Internet Service Providers Association Super Teacher awards, Microsoft, and the South African government – all by showcasing her students’ activities.
She has now introduced her students to Coding Week, using Minecraft as an introduction, and students have also started talking with learners from other countries through the Microsoft Educator Platform and mystery Skypes.
In 2009, Mokhudu was the runner-up in the ISPA Super Teacher prize for ICT Integration in the classroom. In 2015 she was crowned Provincial winner of the National Teaching Award (Technology Enhanced Teaching category), and she has also been recognized as one of the 50 Inspiring Women in Tech for South Africa.
– CAJ News