Thobeka Funeka’s journey from South Africa to South Korea.
On this World Teachers’ Day, we shine a spotlight on an incredible young educator, Thobeka Funeka, and her journey from South Africa to South Korea, where she has influenced and changed numerous lives.
A dream born in KwaDumisa: 25-year-old Thobeka, who taught at Luthuluni Primary School in Kwa Dumisa, Kwa-Zulu-Natal, South Africa, had a humble upbringing in an economically challenged home. Raised alongside her twin brother by their single mother, they were instilled with values of faith, respect, and perseverance from a young age.
Becoming an educator was always Thobeka’s dream. This dream was realized when she earned her Bachelor of Education diploma from the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal. However, her journey to this accomplishment wasn’t without hurdles. Without financial aid during her freshman year, her mother bore the expenses for her tuition, rent, books, and groceries. These challenges only fuelled her determination to excel academically.
After her graduation, Thobeka taught temporarily in Illovo. However, a year without a job led her to consider opportunities abroad, inspired by many South African youths seeking employment outside the country. She boldly uploaded her CV to Dave’s ESL Café, a platform for overseas teaching opportunities, and was soon approached by recruiters. Though it was emotionally taxing to leave her family and homeland, she believed this move was necessary to achieve her aspirations.
Now residing in Changwon, a small city in the Gyeongsangnam-do province of South Korea, Thobeka has faced her share of challenges. But she’s grateful for the warmth she’s experienced at her new school, where she educates children aged 5 to 11. For many of her students, Thobeka was their introduction to Black South Africans, leading to curious questions about her skin color and hair. While her students gained exposure to different cultures through her, Thobeka also embarked on her journey of cultural adaptation and learning.
Thobeka’s story is a testament to determination, resilience, and the pursuit of dreams. She’s keen on encouraging young South Africans to consider teaching abroad, emphasizing its potential for personal growth, learning, and travel. Although adapting to a new culture and forging friendships can be daunting, Thobeka’s journey reveals that with resilience and an open mindset, one can thrive.
Outside her professional commitments, Thobeka has sought out connections to counter the isolation of being in an unfamiliar place. She’s active in Facebook groups and immerses herself in the local culture. Her adaptability and perseverance serve as an inspiration for the youth, emphasizing the importance of looking forward to a brighter future.
Thobeka Funeka is not just an educator; she’s a trailblazer. She exemplifies the transformative impact a dedicated teacher can have on students and the broader community. By bridging cultures and fostering understanding, she’s truly making difference. Here’s to celebrating Thobeka Funeka and all educators who are nurturing curious minds, keeping dreams alive, and molding the leaders of tomorrow.