Women’s Month Profile: Q&A with Athabile Njikelana

20 Aug 2021

Born and raised in Port Elizabeth(PE), Eastern Cape, SPARK Kempton Assistant Principal Athabile Njikelana says her love for children led her to become a teacher. 

This women’s month, Njikelana chats with us about her journey to become a teacher and her other love of music.  She says the transition from the Eastern Cape to Johannesburg wasn’t easy.

Tell us about yourself? 

SPARK Kempton Park Assistant Principal Athabile Njikelana

I love reading, dancing, hiking, movies, and writing songs. I am a single mom to a boy and girl who are ten years apart. I’m a family person, friendly, and generally calm with a sense of humour (mainly to those who know me well, I can be a bit dramatic in a fun way). So you could say a combination of intro and extrovert. 

What inspired you to become a teacher? 

When I was growing up, I didn’t see teaching as a career choice for me. At the time, I did not think it was very cool (like most teens – I finished matric at 17). 

I wanted to be in performing arts doing drama and music, and my second option was media studies. 

However, after completing my Honours at AFDA Cape Town, I returned home to PE due to financial constraints. This was also at a time when I was trying to look for a job in the entertainment industry. I got a banking job. I worked in banking for two years, and I got bored as there was no creativity.  This also gave me time to think about what I wanted to do. 

I remembered how much I love children; even at church, I was involved in children’s ministry. So I decided to quit my job and pursue a qualification in teaching. I have not looked back since. It is one of the most fulfilling jobs in the world. I get to play a role in shaping young minds to make the world a better place. 

We celebrate women’s month this month; what does it mean for you to be led by women? 

I think as a female, it is good to embrace our femininity or nurturing side. I grew up being a tomboy, and  I used to think boys had more fun and had less drama. As I grew older and became a mom, I learned that it is essential to embrace being a woman. I do not believe in ruling with an iron fist, but I still expect a high standard and steer people in the right direction.

I allow my empathetic side to be present in every area of my life to build relationships with people around me. My mom is my biggest inspiration as she was a single parent and a leader at work. She gives excellent advice as well.

You are a teacher and an artist; tell us about that? 

I have been making music since I was in primary school. It started with the school choir and playing the recorder. I then went on to play the piano; in senior high school, I took music as a subject, started singing opera, and took drama as an extramural. In University, I completed a BA in Live performance at a film institute. I was able to perform drama and songs for my peers. I started recording the songs I had written.

I do not have a specific music genre I focus on; I have dabbled in RnB, soul, rock, pop, and gospel. I believe I fit into a genre called adult contemporary as it comprises of different genres.

What inspires you to write music?

I write about everything in life that I can think of or that I see around me. I can write about beautiful things created on the earth, like the ocean, flowers, clouds, and birds. I can also write about feeling lost, broken, in love, happiness, and relationships. 

How do you juggle music and teaching? 

I won’t lie; it is not easy. Since I started working full time, my artistic side has taken a back seat due to the long hours and parenting. But, I still write music and record music on the weekends and during school holidays. My goal is to record a full EP by the end of the year, release it online, and share it with radio stations to get airplay. 

I would love to be known as a songwriter as I am a bit shy to perform. I’m not sure if I will go beyond being a songwriter and recording artist.