South Africa: From Asylum Seekers to Professional Teachers, Sharing Their Skills with Locals
30 November 2015

Mister Joseph Maposa, came to South Africa as an asylum seeker in 2010, following political persecution. Seated in his Office where he works as Financial Administrator, FET Campus Manager as well as a lecturer. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service).
He recalls carrying his small children on his shoulders as they crossed, only to discover, much to his horror, that someone who was crossing but a few paces behind them; had been dragged under by a crocodile!

Makhado, 30 November 2015 – Situations change in countries. Countries that go through political, violent upheavals at times do find relative peace and stability. However, for many refugees and asylum seekers the peace and stability that returns to their countries of origin, holds cold comfort as a return home holds no other prospect but persecution and the threat of violence.

Therefore, these asylum seekers and refugees have no other option but to create a new life for themselves and make the best of their opportunities possible, in order to have a fulfilling life. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is there to accompany refugees reach their fullest potential.

Two gentlemen form Zimbabwe attest to the assistance JRS in Makhado – in the northern most Province of South Africa, Limpopo – has given them in building a fulfilled life.

Mister Joseph Maposa came to South Africa in 2010. He came to South Africa by road, and like many other refugees and asylums seekers, had to cross with no documentation. He was forced to stay in a shelter for homeless men in Musina for thirteen days as he started the process of applying for asylum status.

Mr Maposa explains that as a volunteer for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) he was targeted for the work he had been doing in the rural parts of Zimbabwe. CCJPZ had released a report in March 1997, on the situation in Matabeleland and the Midlands during the period of 1980-1988 titled Breaking the Silence, Building True Peace. The report was based on the human rights abuses that took place, which was known within the nation as the Gukurahundi.

Mr Maposa claims that this led to him being accused of being sympathetic to the main opposition in Zimbabwe, being too critical of the incumbent government and that his role working for a non-governmental organisation, albeit a faith based organisation, was actually a masquerade to gain support for the opposition party. As a result of this Mr Maposa soon lost his job and was persecuted and so in an effort to save his life, left Zimbabwe for South Africa.

He initially worked as the caretaker for a homeless men’s shelter in the northern part of Limpopo Province for a period of six months and during this time managed to sneak his wife and children through the Limpopo River into South Africa. He recalls carrying his small children on his shoulders as they crossed, only to discover, much to his horror, that someone who was crossing but a few paces behind them; had been dragged under by a crocodile!

JRS assisted Mr Maposa and his family with food and accommodation during those first few months since he moved them from the shelter where hid them as no women and children were supposed to stay at the shelter. With JRS’s support he could go ahead and look for proper employment. Today, Mr Maposa is putting his Business Studies Qualification as a holder of a National Diploma in Administration to proper use. He has been working at a combined Primary -, Secondary School and FET College in Makhado since 2011. Here he fulfils three roles as the Financial Administrator, FET Campus Manager as well as a lecturer.

Mister Eric Gondo (not his real name) used to be a Principal at a school in Zimbabwe. He had to flee to South Africa in January 2013. His brother had been married, but his wife left him for a Cabinet Minister in Zimbabwe. Mr Gondo objected to the marriage and word reached the Cabinet Minister. Soon he found that he was being harassed at the school that he ran.

 As a result his entire family started actively and openly campaigning for the opposition party. In one incident, he claims that he was taken and severely beaten as he was told that he dare work as a teacher employed by the state, having been educated by the state, whilst openly supporting the opposition. Mr Gondo therefore decided to leave Zimbabwe.

When he reached South Africa, he was forced to sleep on the streets as he was homeless with very few resources. JRS initially assisted with clothing, blankets, food and accommodation. The most valuable assistance he received from JRS however, was the South African accreditation of his Teaching Qualification he obtained in Zimbabwe through the South African Qualification’s Authority (SAQA). Now, employed as a teacher, he is adding great value to the skills’ deficit that is a severe challenge in South Africa. He is a Mathematics and Life Sciences teacher for Grades 9 through to 11.

Since he has been teaching these subjects at the school, the school has seen an improvement in the pass rate through the grades. “Most of us would have nothing, if it were not for JRS.” Mr Gondo says with a grateful, broad smile.

The accounts of these two phenomenal gentlemen reinforce one important fact JRS has collected volumes of anecdotal evidence on and that has been confirmed via academic study over the years. Refugees and asylum seekers redouble their efforts to rebuild their lives through hard work and education. Through this process they positively add to the skills that are needed in their host countries. We see it as our responsibility to provide the support to people like Mr Maposa and Gondo, to not only reach their potential, but to empower others. 

Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
+27 11 618 3404