‘Anything we set our minds to, we will achieve’ – Village educator (51) receives Master’s in Education with distinction

Posted on May 07, 2024

Khensani Sombani (51), a dedicated educator from Mavalani Village near Giyani in Limpopo, has become an inspiration to many after receiving her master's degree with distinction from the University of Pretoria (UP) at its Autumn Graduation 2024 ceremonies.

Sombani faced numerous obstacles along the way to her latest success. As the child of an immigrant father from Mozambique, she and her siblings often faced ridicule and discrimination from relatives and peers. She remained resilient, though, fuelled by the unwavering support of her late grandmother and her own determination to create a better future for herself.

After completing her primary and secondary education under her grandmother’s guidance, Sombani had limited opportunities but made the best of the options available to her. "For me, teaching was the only qualification I could go for since there was no money for a university, and the colleges of education had bursaries from the former Gazankulu [apartheid-era semi-independent homeland] government, so teaching was the only option," Sombani explains.

She obtained her teaching diploma from the former Tivumbeni College of Education in 1997 and began her teaching career in the Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) Programme at Samson Shiviti Primary School in her home village. Today she teaches at Edward Homu Secondary School in Mapayeni Village in Giyani.

Back to school

Even as she enjoyed teaching others, Sombani harboured a deep desire to further her own education. When she took on her master’s degree as she entered her fifties, she found it particularly difficult to adapt to the demands of a technology-driven academic environment.

"Most of my challenges came from realising that I was too far behind in everything,” she says. “Every meeting had to be conducted virtually, and I had to re-learn referencing. It was a lot.”

Undeterred, she tackled her studies with determination, dedicating early mornings and late nights to her coursework while balancing her responsibilities as an educator and caregiver. "It was quite difficult, but my supervisor advised me that the best time to study was in the early hours of the morning. I would wake up at 3am every day to study and write.”

Her supervisor, Dr Nkhensani Maluleke, played a pivotal role in her academic journey, guiding her through the intricacies of research and technology.

"The frequent writing retreats and interactions with others also helped a lot, because I could get help with some technical issues that I normally encountered."

Now, with her master's degree in hand, Sombani is determined to use her new knowledge to make a positive impact in the field of education. She hopes to inspire her students and colleagues alike, emphasising the importance of perseverance and the pursuit of higher education.

"I have been able to encourage learners to prepare for their tertiary lives by making them participate in evening classes that we conduct online,” she says. “Additionally, the confidence I have gathered helps me confidently give positive advice to learners.”

As she reflects on her journey, she remains committed to empowering others to overcome their own obstacles and pursue their dreams. "Anything we set our minds to, we will achieve, and technology is a part of life that cannot be avoided, so it is better to confront it."

Sombani's story serves as a testament to the power of resilience, determination and the pursuit of knowledge. Despite the challenges she faced, she emerged victorious, inspiring others to believe in the limitless potential of the human spirit.

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