On National Teacher Appreciation Day, we are celebrating teachers around the world whose hard work and impact extend far beyond the boundaries of the classroom. For Mmapula Letswalo, a South African leader in education, teaching is the easy part. While working to bridge the gap between poverty in her community and uplifting the children in the crèche center where she works, support from Rise Against Hunger encourages her to push forward through difficult times.
Growing up in Limpopo, South Africa, Mmapula always dreamed of being a teacher. Understanding the lack of educational opportunities in her town from a young age, she knew that she wanted to make a difference in her community someday. However, like many other children in Limpopo, Mmapula and her family lived in a crèche with cardboard floors and a concrete play area. Even with difficult living conditions, she remembers waking up and going to school hungry. Despite her upbringing, Mmapula used her own life experiences as encouragement to help others.
In 2008, Mmapula founded LaMmatau Preschool in Johannesburg, South Africa. The crèche center provides education for children from two to six years of age in the high-density residential area. Providing the proper education and various activities for her students, she also works with the parents to become more engaged in their children’s learning. Since opening her center, Mmapula strives to be an influencer in the community by encouraging other female crèche owners and teachers.
In 2010, Mmapula attended an event in her community where she met a Rise Against Hunger employee. Within that same year, she partnered with Rise Against Hunger to help cut costs of running a crèche center and to offer nutritious meals to her students. Today, the partnership continues as Mmapula uses the savings to build more brick and mortar classrooms, increasing sanitation, purchasing materials for programs, implementing teacher training and incorporating a phonics program.