Welcome to Everyday Phenomenal with Saffiya Ismail. This is a weekly column is dedicated to highlighting everyday people living unapologetically; following their bliss, inspiring others; shattering ceilings. home-grown South Africans who are phenomenal people!
In the first of this special series we meet the dynamic Shakira Akabor who has taught in a mainstream classroom since 2003. In 2012 she left the profession to further her studies. She is currently a PhD candidate in Inclusive Education at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Shakira’s research interests are on pedagogies for diverse learners and the ways in which we can include rather than exclude learners in the classroom. At present, she works as an independent contractor at both Wits and UNISA.
Shakira lives with her husband and three children in Centurion, Gauteng. She will be speaking at EduWeek in June.
Tell our readers all about yourself?
I am a Muslim woman, as well as a student, teacher, wife and mother of 3 children. When my children were younger, I took a break from full-time teaching and worked in occasional locum teaching positions to allow me to stay home for the most part and raise them.
Whilst at home, I decided to complete my Honours and I discovered how much I enjoyed studying. Currently I am studying at the Wits School of Education. My research interests are on pedagogies for diverse learners and the ways in which we can include rather than exclude learners in the classroom.
I am especially passionate about reducing competitiveness in classrooms and increasing opportunities for all learners to develop and learn to their full potential.
What makes you happy?
The simple joys of life make me happy. I love learning new things, and I love a good cup of tea. I love doing things that improve the lives of others. Teaching and volunteering have allowed me to do that. I love watching my garden grow.
What’s your greatest strength and greatest weakness?
I am confident and able to speak out when I see injustice.
My greatest weakness is saying no even when I am short on time.
What is your greatest passion?
My passion is contributing to the wellbeing of others.
What or who inspires you to live your best life?
The journey to lifelong learning began the moment you were born. That is what inspires me.
Where can we find you in your spare time?
I rarely have spare time! But when I do, it is usually pottering about in the garden, or practicing Arabic calligraphy.
How do you get balance in your life?
As someone who wears many hats, as many of us mums do, I am constantly juggling the responsibilities I have, together with spending time with my children and family. It is not always doable in a day.
What’s are your thoughts on aging?
Age is nothing but a number. Keeping our minds alive is what gives us quality of life.
What “rules” do you live by?
The rules of the Quran and the sunnah. There is so much wisdom in the Quran.
What three things could you not live without?
A good cup of tea. Books. Being together with my little family.