1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your achievements and latest projects if any and where you grow up etc.
This could be long-winded and very indulgent a story, so I’ll keep to the abridged version. I am simply a quintessential workaholic, born to a former Nurse Mother and former Traffic Cop Father. Very humble beginnings in the dusty streets of Emndeni, Soweto. Absolutely nothing pretentious in it, yet my childhood if filled with warm memories of dressing up for Guy Fox day, chasing after the ‘banana kar’ and pushing around stock bricks as makeshift toy cars!
I didn’t know we were ‘poor’ and I say that cautiously because even though I know all about borrowing sugar from next door, drinking ‘umbhubhudlo’ for cool drink and wearing pass down rags, I don’t recall going days on end without food, clothes or a place to sleep. So let’s call it semi-poor! Virtually, everyone in our neighborhood was the same and seemingly predestined to the same cycle. Boy was I wrong.
Today I preside over Phakathi Holdings (Pty) Ltd, a business comprised of 6 subsidiaries, well over a thousand employees and a growing portfolio of great investments. Indeed, a far cry from where it all started.
2. Where and when did you start your schooling, please include tertiary education as well?
I have been to 6 schools, more than any one person should have to endure. It began in 1989 at Ebuhleni Primary School, Emndeni, Soweto where I attended Sub A and Sub B (grade 1 and 2 for the born-frees). Had a stint at Umkhathizwe Primary School, Thokoza for Standard 1 and 2. On to Igagasi Primary School, Spruitview where I completed my Primary Schooling at the tender age of 11.
High School began at Reasoma High School, Protea, Soweto, for Standard 6. Standard 7 at Tusk Academy, Mayfair and then rounded that overly elaborate hoping at Highlands North Boys’ High School for my senior years. I should hasten to mention that I still hold the record for being the youngest ever Matriculant, at 15 years of age.
The University of Johannesburg is where I honed my knowledge, skills, and thinking, Studying Banking, which would later be complemented with a Bachelors of Commerce in Economics Degree. Someday I hope to study towards a Masters Degree in Economics, for now, I am in a deep immersion with more than a fair share of responsibilities at Phakathi Holdings.
3. Where did you get the inspiration from to become an entrepreneur?
I am not entirely certain that I was inspired into entrepreneurship as much as I just stumbled upon it. I was an entrepreneur throughout primary school and high school, long before the word businessman found its way into my vocabulary. The only time this became an issue was when I had to consider post-high school studies versus full-time entrepreneurship. In those days I wanted to become an actuary and start a business along that path. Pity I wasn’t really committed to the course but things turned out okay I’d say.
With the passage of time, I have learned to draw great inspiration in solving the problems of unemployment using my entrepreneurial prowess. I get a kick out of identifying problems, meticulously designing solutions and then seeing through their precise implementation against incredible odds.
4. In your view why do you think education is important?
We live in a complex society. The issues that confront the world today are not only complex and interwoven but also occur at a global scale. Without a good education, I don’t see how you can comprehend some of those complexities or add to the solution. Education gives you a solid grounding to understand the world better, participate and develop yourself further. It is indeed the key to a brighter future.
As an employer, with 15 years hiring experience, I have developed a bias towards employees with a good education. Quite frankly, the work environment is much more demanding than it was 100 or even 10 years ago. Today employers and employees alike have to adapt seamlessly to the changing environment and it is a simpler task when the employees have a certain level of education upon which you can build.
5. Who was your favorite teacher(s)?
I would have to say most of my teachers made a sterling contribution to my development. Often going to great inconvenience to accommodate my needs or tolerate my indiscretion at times. If I had to single one out it would have to be Mrs. Woods, my Matric English teacher. She honed my ability to articulate myself clearly in English, which is one of the top 10 reasons I’ve been able to participate in and compete effectively in certain spaces of business.
6. What influence did he/she or they have on you?
In retrospect, the main thing she did was encourage my writing, read and provide feedback on it. All of which was beyond her call of duty. Looking at some of my earlier writing, I shudder to think what she must have truly thought as she smiled and urged me on.
7. What were your favorite subjects and why?
English and Mathematics. English helped with my vocabulary and effective communication in written and spoken language. Mathematics fuelled my analytical inclination and was fascinating as everything around, wherever you look, involves some sort of calculation. Both English and Mathematics are indispensable parts of our lives.
8. Describe the qualities that a good teacher should have or display?
I think teachers are well placed to influence the lives of their young and budding pupils. The most important thing is for them to be both patient and interested. Patience for obvious reasons, different students will understand different things in different ways and at different paces. Teachers have to have the patience to allow the class to move at the pace of the slowest learners – within reason.
When a teacher is an interest, the student is certainly enthused and reciprocates such interest by wanting to do well. My hypothesis on the whole favourite teacher – favourite subject conjuncture is that students naturally gravitate towards teachers who show them the most interest and patience. Put differently, even if a subject were your favourite in school, an indifferent teacher can cause disinterest and a disconnection with from it, the converse is also true.
9. What are the things a teacher should never do or say?
This may be controversial terrain, but I think teachers should not go on strike. The rest of it I think is covered in terms of acceptable professional conduct standards and ethics. Strikes are particularly devastating to students as they often lose precious time that aught to be invested in studying. This is not to disregard the plight of teacher across the country. Perhaps an expedient, fair, and effectual arbitration mechanism should be the first and last resort. But, anyone who has such direct influence over the life of another, or placed in such position of trust, should not be able to legally act in such a way as to cause harm to the future of the other.
10. What message do you have for teachers?
Thank you! Long may you continue to be a blessing in each child’s life and help them become all they can be. You are indeed heaven’s greatest gift to society.