Retirement is just a change of scenery for South Africa’s most driven teacher


Phuti Ragophala is retired, but she can’t relax. She’s not wired that way. The former school principal assumed the burden of caring for the nation’s children during her career, and she can’t let go. Before calling it a day in the classroom, Ragophala dedicated over three decades of service to South Africa’s children. Today nothing has changed except the scenery, as she continues her life’s mission of educating youngsters from home.

When she retired, Ragophala started a tutoring programme to help primary school children improve both their book and computer literacy. After completing a short course in teaching with technology through Microsoft, the company gave her a small collection of tablets that have enabled her to pass valuable skills on to her community. Beyond academic assistance, Ragophala’s students receive practical advice on subsistence gardening to make sure they never go hungry. “I am from a family where we sometimes slept on empty stomachs,” says the magnanimous educator. “I don’t want to see other people going the same route.”  

“My teaching career has been built on compassion and service towards the needy learners and those who don’t have enough funds,” she says. And it has been some career. Ragophala has been honoured with a collection of accolades over the years, none more impressive than being shortlisted for the 2017 Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize. But her greatest treasure is falling asleep knowing that she continues to do her part securing the future for South Africa’s children.