When Storytelling Supersedes Language Barriers!

One dry and cold Karoo afternoon, two people who both speak English as a second language sat down at a table for a cup of tea and to share stories. One of those people was me, a Shangaan speaking blogger from Mkhuhlu in Mpumalanga, and the other was my fellow colleague Sanah Bagoe; an Afrikaans speaking and Open Learning Academy Coordinator at Good Work Foundation’s (GWF) Philippolis campus from the Free State, and my interviewee.

I am a bit anxious about this interview because Afrikaans isn’t even closed to being on my list of spoken languages and all I remember is how to say ‘goei more’ which means good morning in Afrikaans. Those might have been the only Afrikaans words I uttered to Sanah throughout our interview.

I later discovered that I wasn’t alone with nerves today, “ooh please excuse me if I say an Afrikaans word here and there while we talk, I am still polishing up on my English,” says Sanah as she lets out an embarrassed laugh while half covering her mouth with her one hand.

Sanah is one of the many people I can relate to; Sanah did both her junior phase and secondary phase learning locally. She completed her high school studies in 2003 and was without light and direction from then till her paths met with GWF in 2014. Like me, Sanah wasn’t thinking about further education into tertiary because of financial reasons.

But when you have knocked on GWF’s campus door for assistance, the words ‘giving up’ are erased from your vocabulary. Sanah started off studying towards an International Computer Driving License (ICDL) qualification, and because of her resilient nature, she soon volunteered under Open Learning Academy (OLA) where she taught children English and maths on tablets and computers.

I made myself comfortable on the cold plastic chair I sat on when Sanah began to tell me her story; a story that sounded so identical to mine it almost scared me.  Like me, Sanah had to learn to grow up without parents and be the parent to her siblings from a young age.

During my stay at the campus, I saw Sanah everyday working with the children and helping them find their way in everything and with so much passion. Sanah has the biggest personality ever and a smile that brings every OLA child to her for a hug or two as they come in to the campus and as they leave after their ‘wonder-filled’ learning.

“I believe I have a purpose to change our community through education,” said Sanah.

It is very heart-warming to see how one woman can have a heart to love many and be their mentor.

Sanah is a very dedicated woman and our country and the world at large needs more women like her.

You know that storytelling has definitely superseded language barriers when a Shangaan speaking person gets a full story from an Afrikaans speaking interviewee!


I saw Sanah everyday working with the children and helping them find their way in everything and with so much passion.


Philippolis Open Learning Academy Coordinator,Sanah Bagoe and Head of Open Learning Academy discuss creative learning implementation for Open Learning learners of Philippolis Digital learning Campus.


Sanah Bagoe showing Bergmanshooghte Primary School learners how to pose for a photo moment.

Written By Hazyview Media Intern: Mfumo Thobela