Photography by: Lerato Mofoka
Writing by: Mampinane Kompi
83-year-old ‘Mamotaoane Selematsela was a primary school teacher in Morija for 50 years. In 1952, she started teaching at Thupa Kubu Primary School. She then taught at Morija Primary School from 1963 until her retirement in 2001.
Even though she had a successful teaching career, Selematsela explains that teaching was not her dream job. However, it was the only career option available to her at the time, so she completed the Basutoland Primary Teaching Course in 1951.
Selematsela taught Standard 1, the youngest class in the school, for the entire time that she was at Morija Primary School. This surprised her, as she was expecting to teach different classes. One day, she confronted the school principal to tell her that she really wanted to teach one of the higher grades, but the principal refused.
“Some of my students complained when they found out that I was always teaching the beginners,” she laughs. “They said to me: ha ke sa pasa! (I am not “passing”, I am not moving forward!)
Selematsela realised the importance of teaching Standard 1, because that is the foundation of primary school. “Morija Primary School students were just fine, they were controllable because they knew me very well,” she explains.
Selematsela attended many workshops during her time as a teacher. In one of these workshops, she and other teachers wrote a book called Leseli. This book became part of the Standard 2 syllabus.
“I enjoyed being a teacher more than anything,” she says emotionally. “However, being a teacher at that time was not really easy because we had to find our own equipment and resources in order to do good work.”
For example, Selematsela remembers a time when she saw a man from the village carrying a board with the intention of making a ceiling. She asked him for it and he gave it to her. She took it to her classroom and used it as a blackboard. “I always printed my syllabus at the Morija Printing Works because I was committed to my work,” she says. “All I wanted was to teach and not to cheat.”
In 1999, at the age of 65, Selematsela was due to retire. However, the Morija Primary School Board asked her to do an extension of 2 years. She finally retired in 2001. It was not easy for her to retire because she loved teaching. After retiring, Morija English Medium School asked her to teach Standard 1’s for an additional year.
“It makes me happy when I see that my students have succeeded. One student who makes me proud is ‘Molotsi Monyamane who was a very well known doctor. He is now the Minister of Health and Social Welfare.”
“To be a good teacher, you need to be a very good example to other people. For instance, you must be clean, outstanding and well behaved. You must give every student your attention and do your best to check every student’s work.”