While none of the paths of our Dell Young Leaders are the same, many note the important role their families and communities play in their education and career. Karabo Maloka, an alum from the 2017 graduating class, was raised by a single mother of four children in Klipgat, a rural area near Mabopane. He is the first university graduate in his family. In this Q&A, Karabo explains how his path to a teaching career has inspired his siblings and students to pursue higher education.
What have you been up to since graduation?
After getting my bachelor’s degree at the University of Pretoria, I began teaching classes from Grade 10 to 12 in accounting and business studies at a secondary school in the North West province. I’m very proud that my learners have a pass rate of more than 90%. In 2019, with just two years of experience, I was appointed as a departmental head for BCM subjects (accounting, business studies, and economics).
I have also been assisting Grade 12 learners across the country by delivering accounting lessons through Motsweding FM and SABC Education. I am a tutor on a “Dial-A-Tutor” programme, an initiative to assist learners in the North West province. I also travel to assist with intervention campaigns and mentor new, young educators.
Looking back at your university journey, what was your biggest challenge?
Starting at varsity was a completely new experience in the unknown. I felt like I was stuck, not knowing what is what, who is who, and where is where. The biggest challenge I faced was around finances. The first few months after I arrived at varsity, I did not have a place to stay. I didn’t know where I would sleep. When I got to university I was very hopeful I would be in one of the campus residences, until I learned I was put on the waiting list.
How did you overcome this challenge?
My mum, who is my superhero, was a domestic worker at the time with a salary of only R1000 per month. She took all of the financial burden so that I could find a residence where I would be able to study while waiting for the result of the financial aid application. This situation lasted for three months, bearing in mind that I’m not my mum’s only dependent. I have other siblings as well.
I will never forget the day when my mum almost lost hope and insisted that I drop out because she could not support me anymore. I reassured my mum that I was not going anywhere and fortunately one week later my financial aid application was approved. I got my first bursary and that’s when everything started sailing. I got accepted into the Dell Young Leaders programme, which continued to support me financially with all the basic necessities and one-on-one support.
How did you stay motivated to finish your degree?
As the child of a single mum and the first graduate in my family, I could not wait to help and support my family. What really motivated me towards graduation was the fact that I was involved in community activities, especially educational programs. The love and passion I had for working with children was so overwhelming. I was impatient with myself in obtaining my degree because I wanted to be permanently based in a school environment where I would help others progress in life as much as I had.
What has been the impact of your graduation on your family and your community?
I’m actually the first graduate in my family. I’m so happy because my graduation changed the attitude of a lot of people around me. Being the first graduate at home inspired my siblings to go back to school and follow in my footsteps. My older sister is now in her third year of studies, pursuing the same career as me. This really gives me a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment.
As a teacher, I believe that the knowledge I impart on an individual learner is actually knowledge imparted on an entire community. Looking at the community at large, I think my graduation and the work I do has inspired a lot of people. I still see this on a day-to-day basis. The way others respond to me makes me realise the type of impact my graduation has on them. Sometimes when I go to work, I don’t even say, “I’m going to work.” Instead, I wake up with a great feeling of looking forward to getting to school and changing somebody’s life.
I get a lot of messages of gratitude from former students currently in university who say: “I couldn’t do this if you had not been there. I don’t believe I would have made it as far as I have made it without you.” I want to believe that this is because of my career and my graduation. Although my graduation has long past, it continues to inspire many people.