With pink finger nails on my left hand, a sore neck and a slightly bent finger, I have returned from marking the English Home Language Paper 3 exam paper written during the NSC exams in November. This leftie is tired. But also inspired.
This was my third year marking for the NSC exams and will not be my last. Marking the language paper in the past, this was the first year that I had marked the writing paper. I found the whole process to be extremely well organised and controlled in a professional and practical manner. The team of markers, senior markers and chief markers all played their part to ensure that this important process happens flawlessly. As markers, we were constantly reminded that we are making a difference in learners’ futures and in that light the marking process was done with positivity and enthusiasm. This is a reason to be hopeful for the future of education in South Africa.
When I first applied to mark this paper, people told me I was crazy. “Why would you voluntarily mark kids’ essays?”, “You already have to mark so many essays at school!”, “Essays are so boring to read!” are some of the comments I got. I found it to be the exact opposite.
When you read someone’s writing, you are getting a glimpse into their soul, how they think and what they believe. This in itself is a privilege. Admittedly, not all writers express themselves equally well and sometimes the sentences come out all muddled and riddled with writing errors. But still, if you listen carefully, you should be able to hear the writer’s voice. This I found to be the case in the majority of essays I read.
These short pieces of writing give learners a chance to make a difference with their words and many of them did. I cannot tell you who these learners were or even from what schools they came from because I honestly don’t know, but I can say that they have given me hope for the literary future of South Africa. There are learners out there who write so beautifully, whose words flow off the page so effortlessly, that you cannot believe that they are only 18 years old.
In light of recent events in the country, with the passing of our great leader Madiba, it is now more important than ever to be positive about South Africa. Education for all was one of Madiba’s great legacies and should be this country’s top priority. Marking this paper has reminded me of that and the fact that we as educators have a great responsibility to shape the minds of the youth of South Africa. This process has shown me that there are many caring teachers, who go to extra effort with their lessons and learners. This is my final reason to be hopeful about education in South Africa.
I know this has been a tough year for many. Many of my fellow educators feel drained at this point, with little hope for the future. My wish for them for this season is that they take the time to relax and rejuvenate themselves, so that they are able to take on 2014 with renewed energy. In the words of Nelson Mandela, we must remember that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”