Soweto-born, Refiloe Malatji’s passion to transform young people’s lives has been recognised by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga at the 15th National Teaching Awards, recently held in Gauteng.
Ms Malatji was honoured for her dedication and contribution, as a teacher, in nurturing and developing future leaders in South Africa. She was named as one of the winners in the Excellence in Secondary School Teaching category.
As a University of Johannesburg (UJ) alumna and Life Orientation teacher at UJ Metropolitan Academy, the University’s affiliated high school that caters for selected learners from disadvantaged communities who demonstrate potential for success in studies at higher education institutions, Ms Malatji takes career guidance and the promotion of different education career paths seriously.
“Grade 12 is one of the most important milestones in a young person’s life. The decisions they make will have a significant impact on the rest of their personal and professional life. Choosing a career and deciding where you are going to study to obtain a recognised qualification are two important decisions a young person can make. It is therefore critical that the learners have the right information,” she asserted.
According to Ms Malatji the education system and teachers are often portrayed negatively. “I believe the education system has room for growth despite the challenges with teacher and learner ratios. A practical support system for teachers is vital, especially in our under performing schools. Emphasis should be on producing and developing quality teachers. The introduction of the CAPS policy, I believe has been a step in the right direction – especially for a subject like Life Orientation. It has given the subject more weight with regards to content knowledge and application.”
On her recognition, she said: “This accomplishment has given me a voice and a platform beyond my classroom. It has allowed me to change the perception of Life Orientation as a subject. It has showed the role Life Orientation teachers play in aiding learners to become qualified citizens. It all starts in the Life Orientation class where we equip learners with life skills that assist them to evolve into future leaders.”
Respected teacher and Principal of UJ Metropolitan Academy Metropolitan, Ms Marietta Westerberg recalls when Ms Malatji did her teaching practical at the school. “She stood out as an exceptional student and was extremely mature for her age as well as extremely professional. During her teaching years at our school, she has always been a totally dedicated teacher who is passionate about the learners. She has wisdom way above her years and she is always prepared to walk the extra mile. She is a stunning role model for the learners.”