Optimi Campus is a world-class education institution, providing excellent future-forward education focusing on learner collaboration and nurturing each learner’s spirit. We chat with Optimi Campus Lynnwood manager Marietjie Smit and Optimi Campus Auckland Park manager Indira Govender to learn more about their backgrounds, what drives them, and what makes Optimi Campus so unique.
A brief background
Smit was born in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, and is a proud alumnus of Bergvlam High School, where she says her passion for education began. She completed her Bachelor of Education through North-West University, and after graduating, she started teaching at Volksrust High School. After that, she moved on to Bastion High School. She became a national examiner and a senior marker and moderator for the DBE, ERCO and BCVO examination boards for Hospitality Studies and Consumer Studies.
Govender, the eldest of three children, was born in Chatsworth, KwaZulu-Natal. She completed postgraduate degrees in both law and education, passing both with distinction. Her passion for education began when she would ‘play school’ with her teddy bears and later when she had to take care of her two siblings, who were seven and thirteen years younger than her. She has taught in primary and secondary school and the higher education and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sectors.
What is your favourite part about the campus?
Smit loves the campus reception, where she gets to connect with her learners, their parents, and staff members. Govender loves the beginning of a new term when learners arrive refreshed and ready to learn: “My favourite part of the campus is seeing it come ‘alive’ when the facilitators and learners come… a Mausoleum becomes a lively and interactive campus filled with warm and sometimes zany personalities, questions, chatter and laughter galore”.
What makes Optimi Campus unique?
Smit believes there are myriad reasons Optimi Campus is remarkable: “The flexibility in education, the good manners of more focused learners, and the positive, academic atmosphere”. Govender agrees about the flexibility of learning and adds that the campus caters to unique learners and their non-traditional approach to education. She concludes: “[The campus is unique because] it does not subscribe to a uniform or a bell that heralds a start of a class – it promotes individuality and self-sufficiency but in a controlled and safe environment”.
How would you describe your management style?
Smit describes herself as “straight-forward” and believes this helps her communicate clearly and concisely. She adds that good management is exemplified by leading by example and being a role model to others. Although the final decision lies with her, she strives to receive and consider feedback from others involved in decision-making.
Govender says her management style changes as circumstance requires, but overall, she believes in being “supportive, inspirational and motivating to [her] learners and tutors”, as that is often needed to achieve specific management goals. Like Smit, she also seeks input from others when necessary and also believes in leading by example.
What motivates you to wake up and do your job every day? How do you inspire others?
Smit cites her selection as the campus manager as a motivating factor. She believes her role is a calling that motivates her. To inspire others, she says, “I always try to set an example for everybody around me when living out my passion, motivating them to be better than yesterday and dream bigger about tomorrow!”.
Govender says her motivation comes from seeing her role not as a job but as a passion and, like Smit, a calling. She expands: “The ability to make a learner a well-rounded individual is my favourite part – that ‘aha’ moment when a concept becomes concrete, their warm smiles that makes you feel that you are someone they appreciate, their total trust and faith…” She concludes that her trustworthiness, ability to admit when she does not know something, and optimism inspire others in her life.
How do you deal with change? Can you tell us more about how you and the campus have adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Smit says that while the pandemic presented many obstacles, she saw it as a chance to innovate for the better: “It was a difficult and uncertain time for everybody and so unexpected. Opportunities like this always bring out better solutions for the future. We must accept the things we can control and need to adapt to things we cannot. COVID taught me to adapt daily, appreciate people in my life and time for myself more, and [not to let] small things cause more stress”.” As for the campus, she says they began to use online classes and platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp to continue teaching lessons and conducting assessments safely.
Govender says the Optimi Campus Auckland Park also experimented successfully with online classes, which she believes has upskilled her learners by improving their computer literacy. She adds that now, the campuses are looking at streaming classes between them.
How do you deal with failure? What advice do you have for learners on how to deal with failure?
Smit prefers to see her mistakes not as failures but as lessons from which she can learn something new. To learners, she says, “Never give up until you reach your goals – anything is possible if you believe in yourself and put your mind to it!” Govender believes we must acknowledge that some things are out of our control but do our best to work through mishaps regardless and appreciate life as a journey rather than a destination.
To learn more about Optimi Campus, visit https://optimicampus.co.za/. Registrations for 2022 open on 1 September.