Marcia Lebambo is a woman passionate about developing marginalized communities in rural areas. A self-described village girl who came to Gauteng to claim her piece of gold, Marcia is giving back to the community through education in a unique way.
Her foundation uses Spelling Bees to educate school children in rural areas and townships in South Africa. Marcia believes Spelling Bees are a great way to encourage confidence in children. Though she works as a senior campus officer and lecturer, Marcia is pursuing her PhD and is still digging for her gold.
Tell us about the Marcia Lebambo Foundation
The Marcia Lebambo Foundation was established in 2012 as a non-profit organization focusing on teaching school learners in townships and rural areas writing and reading skills. This is done using a popular competition called a Spelling Bee.
In the competition, contestants are asked to spell a broad selection of words, usually with a varying degree of difficulty. This is a comprehensive learning process that allows children to learn the definition, pronunciation, and roots of the words.
Learning grammar is not the only benefit, learners are able to enhance vocabulary, competitive spirit, greater knowledge, cognitive skills and confidence.
Since 2012, over a thousand learners participated in the program. The initiative was motivated by improving the quality of basic education in the country, especially schools in the rural areas and townships.
As an organisation, we believe that the fight for quality education cannot be the responsibility of government alone, but every South African. This is the reason why we are extending a hand to your organisation to help change the plight of our education system.
What motivated you to starting Spelling Bees in South Africa?
Coming from a rural school where the level of education was very poor, I didn’t value myself as a student. So when I joined TUT as a student in 2005, I felt like I didn’t belong and that affected my confidence a lot.
After completing my degree, at only 19 in 2007, I then told myself that I cannot sit and feel sorry for myself. I had to do something not only for myself but other kids in similar backgrounds like mine. I wanted to go back and help kids from previously disadvantaged schools learn how to read and write.
Because spoken words are written first, if you can master reading and writing you can master the speaking. In 2012, together with a group of volunteers, I founded the Marcia Lebambo Foundation which organises the Spelling Bee competitions.If you can master reading and writing you can master the speaking Click To Tweet
Coupled with the rapid pace of social media and technology, writing has become a challenge globally, especially for learners in marginalised communities. I believe that if you cannot spell the word, you cannot read, and if you cannot read, you will not be able to write.
We literally go school by school sending invitations and requesting collaborations from school teachers, principals and parents. It is very challenging because it is self-funded. But it is worth it.
Do you have a favourite book or read much?
I love biographies, they tell a story and invite the reader to meet the person behind the person. I call biographies intimate reads.
Currently, I am reading Zuma, A Biography by Jeremy Gordin. In between, I’m also reading a local Author Sy Tshabalala’s book titled Being Positive in a Negative World, Daily Supplements of Inspiration. But the pace has been slow because I am doing my PhD which consumes a lot of time on research books and articles and a lot of writing.
What keeps you awake at night?
To see my community and people in better conditions than they were yesterday.
Being raised by parents with no educational background and being the first in the family to receive a university qualification reminds me that I represent my entire community. That responsibility reminds me that I have to rise above the narrow confines of my individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
I am driven by knowing that God has given us powers to be and do anything that we want in life, whether good or bad, the choice lies with us. I am also inspired by ordinary women with no education or employment who use whatever little resources available to sell fruits and vegetables to pay for their children’s education.
My question daily is; If they can do it, what stops me? If the late Mandela could move the entire world behind prison bars, what is actually stopping me? That is what inspires me.
Why did you choose your profession?
I started with a course that I didn’t want to do because I didn’t apply on time to secure a space on the course I wanted which was law. So I went for any that was available and ended with administrative management. I completed it in Cum Laude because I wanted to quickly remove it from my face and register my all-time favourite. But as one can expect, life happened and I ended up doing so many other courses.
My qualifications include:
- Diploma Administrative Management
- B-tech Strategic Management
- B-tech Public Management
- Masters in Entrepreneurship
After so many years, it is only now that I have been accepted to study LLB. The plan is to complete my PhD first this year, 2016. I want to be an academic full-time. There still so much work to do especially in the black-dominated universities.Marcia Lebambo was the first in her family to receive a university qualification Click To Tweet
How do you define family?
Family is strength, family is love, family is light. To me, family is everything. They keep you grounded, when you go up they celebrate with you, when you go down they cry with you. They are our ultimate life cheerleaders.
Three of my siblings are part of the Spelling Bee initiative. I must say without them, I would have not grown the foundation to where it is today. Being closer, they help ignite that fire within.
Which would you choose between trust or love?
With trust you love, and with love you trust. Without the other, the puzzle would be incomplete.
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