Forty years of shaping young lives

Sharon Raphael, left, with principal Envor Petersen.

After teaching for 40 years, Sharon Raphael is still going strong and says what kept her in the field for so long was knowing that she was making a difference in children’s lives.

This was evident in the numerous positions that Ms Raphael, 59, holds at the Morgenson Primary in Hanover Park. She is a Grade 1 teacher and the foundation phase head of department.

She also assists with pupil enrolment; is the co-ordinator for learner, teacher, and parent wellness; manages the school’s food and clothing drive; is the trauma room co-ordinator; is on the discipline, sport, and safety and security committee; is the school’s governing body secretary; and runs the school’s after care facility.

When Ms Raphael completed Grade 10, she wanted to either become a nurse or a teacher, but she was told that she was “too short” to be a nurse, so she opted for teaching.

After completing her studies, she started teaching at Morgenson Primary, and after 10 years, she became the foundation phase head of department.

“I gained my experience through teaching from Grade 1 to 7, and I also accepted any challenges, like standing in for a teacher, and that is how I learnt.

“I can make a difference in the lives of many kids. Some people think teaching at the same school for 40 years means you have no ambition, but I am still as motivated as I was 40 years ago,” she said.

“There is so much that you can do at a school like this even with all the challenges. I always push them to excel and not form part of the stigma that because you come from Hanover Park you can’t succeed. It doesn’t mean that because you are from Hanover Park that you have to stay here; there is a life outside,” she said.

Ms Raphael said that some of the challenges include gangsterism and crime in the area, which
hamper the children’s ability to focus at school. She also said that many parents didn’t know how to help their children with homework.

“There is also so much admin to do as a teacher. Everything is about textbooks and this book and that book, but there is hardly any physical activity with the children, no one focuses on that.

“Resources and funding also remain challenges. Everything that you want in your class comes out of your own pocket – not that you are complaining because you want the best for your pupils,” she said.

Ms Raphael said one of the reasons she stayed at the school for four decades was that she had the support of her principals and colleagues.

One of the highlights of her career was when she graduated cum laude with a national diploma in education from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) at the age of 50.

“Yes, I teach at a school where the children are poor, yes some of their parents are drug addicts, yes some of them come from informal settlements, but every term we try to do something fun for our pupils. We are up for suggestions, and we all rally together to make it happen,” she said.

“We are a family, we support each other, and we welcome each other so why would I want to be anywhere else? We eat together and go out on excursions together. Nobody is excluded,” she said.

Principal Envor Petersen said Ms Raphael was the type of teacher any principal would always want around.

“Committing to various projects, aiding the feeding schemes, and always going the extra mile is what she does. She is dedicated and often takes money out of her own pocket,” he said.

Farieda Green, the cook at the school, was in Ms Raphael’s Grade 1 class in 1982. She said that she remembered how caring and loving her teacher was as she always made sure that her pupils were healthy and had a full tummy.

“My dad never worked, so we had nothing to eat, but she always made sure that I had bread, chips, and sweets and even bought me a doll.

“She was caring by nature and always concerned about us. If we didn’t come to school, she would call and ask if everything is okay and if we needed anything. I will always remember that after prayer and greeting, she would read stories to us during story time,” she said.