Mochelo Lefoka completed his degree in Construction Management but,when working in the industry, he found that much of his skills development had to be self taught. He realised that he was unlikely to be the only person working in the engineering industry who struggled to find the right information and support, so he changed course to invest his time into skills training, and found his passion.
“I grew up in Makgodu village in Limpopo and was inspired by the incredible mix of people who would get up and make something of themselves every single day,” says Lefoka. “They took responsibility for their lives and others, and I wanted to approach my life with the same passion.”
It was this belief that saw Lefoka move from his career in engineering and construction towards one that was more focused on teaching. He noticed that many new graduates battled to find knowledge when they first started working, and that often this information was dispensed on a “need to know” basis. The problem was time —the staff on most construction sites were too busy to spend time sharing insights and learnings.
“It became my responsibility to solve this problem,” he said. “In 2016, UCT was looking for a New Generation of Academics Programme developmental lecturing post under the department of higher education and training. I applied for the job, but I didn’t get it — I ended up being offered the Employment Equity post. I see this as an opportunity to supplement the curriculum with everything I have learned in the industry and to give students the tools they need to become the best in the industry.”
Lefoka is working on his MPhil with the goal of pursuing his PhD and an MBA soon after. As he moves deeper into his training and education with the goal of improving his contributions to students, Lefoka remains motivated by his late grandparents, Tlhabana and Nape Lefoka. They had no formal education, but they ensured he never missed a day of school.
“It is very important to be teachable and open to new perspectives,” concludes Lefoka. “I learn from my students as often their experiences in the built environment are far more interesting than mine. Representation matters more than we realise and I believe when students walk into class and see someone like them as their teacher, it may be the catalyst they need to keep going.” —Tamsin Oxford