Rural Math’s Teacher Shares 3 “Life-Lesson” Poems

Selby Mokoena (@Mokoena_online) was born in Bushbuckridge, one of South Africa’s largest rural settlements.

He’s a math’s prodigy.

Unfortunately, insufficient funding meant that – after school – he was unable to read math’s at university.

Today, Shabalala community is lucky to have this young man (he is only 20 years old) teaching math’s to Grade 4 primary school learners at Hazyview Open Learning Academy.

He doesn’t just teach. He facilitates a passion for the subject. He invents new way of learning. He inspires greatness.

Selby also has a gift for words: he has an ability to share with people who don’t know, what it is to be rural. To be a son. To be abandoned. To be hungry. To have to walk miles to work everyday.

You can follow Selby’s blog. In the meantime, here are three of his incredible poems (click on the titles to read):


Selby teaching math’s at the Open Learning Academy in Hazyview.

1. Struggling is My Steering Wheel

If you are “erring”. If you are functioning at less than 100 percent. If you feel that you might be close to giving up, read this poem. And be inspired.

2. Do You Know How it Feels

Like all of us, Selby has had his ‘ups and downs’ and this poem was written during a period of dejection at not being able to study. He was also unemployed. The words remind us to be grateful for what we have. Don’t forget the times of struggle – let them guide you and give you strength.

3. My Eight Names

Who are you? What defines you? How do you see yourself? The good, the bad, and the ugly. This is a wonderful, complex poem that asks questions about identity. It’s also an interesting view into the life of a young man who has struggled through a lot to get where he is today – a place where he gives so abundantly of himself.