Today, all around the world, we celebrate, and honour the greatest gift to the advancement of society: teachers. If it weren’t for them so few of us would’ve been anything more than what we believed about ourselves since day one of school. They are the heroes who hardly ever get the recognition they deserve (unless they work in private schools).
In South African, the majority of teachers work in poor conditions, largely because of a lack of proper administration. Yet, these teachers show up every day, to pass on the gift of knowledge to their learners. They have to deal with learners on so many different levels on the problem spectrum, let alone having to deal with problems of their own, at home.
I didn’t finish high school, or at least not when I was supposed to. I gave teachers a hard time. We had gang fights during school time. I went to school high on drugs, many a times. But I can still remember some of the lessons some of the teachers imparted in me during those difficult times.
I remember Mr Parnell and Misses October, who were my two favorite teachers in high school. I once scrape everything off of Ms. October’s desk because she threw my school bag outside, but she didn’t report me; I wasn’t suspended, and she still taught me like she did everyone else. Mr. Parnell were just one of the coolest, most positive teachers ever. He always gave credit where it was due, regardless from which community, family, or story you came from.
Around my 3rd year in prison I decided to complete my schooling. So I used to visit the library a lot, for research (and pictures of rappers in the magazines). Ms. Freysen-Hugo ( correctional officer) was in charge of the library, but also a teacher at the prison (ABET) school. She began to invest in me- why, I wouldn’t know to this day. She started giving me responsibilities and opportunities that gave me a sense of worthiness. On two occasions she asked me to do a motivational talk- once to a group from a school, and once to a room full of important people in the Correctional Services. She obviously saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.
Once I got into a really bad fight with a guy, and was put in solitary confinement. Ms. Freysen-Hugo came to visit me in solitary, just as Robbie Williams’ “Feel” played on the radio. She reminded me of how much life I had, running through my veins, going to waste, as the lyrics goes. It was a definite defining moment for me. To see a teacher/correctional officer, taking the time out to visit a 26-gang member, in solitary, to remind him that he’s worth a lot, and he’s wasting it with gang activities. I bet she doesn’t even know who I am anymore. I bet she just take it as part of her job, but what she also doesn’t know is how my life was changed by her doing her job as a teacher with such incredible passion.
There is such great power in believing in someone. There’s is especially great power in the encouraging words of a teacher.
There are so many Ms. Freysen-Hugo’s out there.
May they be celebrated today.
Happy World Teachers Day 2015
Peace to you,
P.S. If anyone know Ms. (Yolanda) Freysen-Hugo, will you please pass this on to her.