Decrease font size Reset font size Increase font size
Welcome to the OISE Alumni and Friends website


New grad and community activist reflects on OISE journey with Class of 2019, evoking grandmother's guiding words

By Tshweu Moleme

Tshweu Moleme is a graduate of the Masters of Education program in Adult Education and Community Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). He completed his undergraduate degree at New College, University of Toronto.

Thuto ke lesedi (education is light), my late South African grandmother, Mma, would often remind me as a young boy, as we fought our way through apartheid in Johannesburg, trying to make sense of the world or letting the world make sense of us.

As a new grad of OISE, I can hear grandmother’s words once again, “Education is light, my son...” These simple, yet profound words remind me that with learning, there’s advancement (individually and collectively); advancement in many ways – be it through one’s sharing of learning they've gained with their community; at work, in the classroom, church, anywhere your knowledge can be shared and shaped by others.

I am also reminded of our recent convocation address by alum, activist and former politician Zanana Akande that learning happens in many ways; it’ll even come in informal and incidental ways.

"Share in the knowledge you gain and be open and welcoming of knowledge you receive from those around you," she said.

Reflecting on the journey to OISE

I am a father to two boys, Mookodi (rainbow) and Thuto (enlightenment/learning), and a husband to my beautiful wife, Sarah. When I decided to apply to OISE, there was a lot happening in my life academically and personally. Now that I look back, I wonder how I pulled through. Courage, I think.

I was at the end of my undergrad in political science, African studies and equity studies at U of T. I was and still am working as a full time Union Representative with Unifor. While studying, I met New College Professor June Larkin, who took great interest in my work, ideas and where I wanted to go in terms of research on youth and trade unions. This culminated in her helping me develop my research project on youth activism and youth voice in these spaces. I also delivered a paper at an academic conference held at the college.

Professor Larkin guided me in the direction of OISE, where she thought my work would be welcome. I applied, started praying, and dreaming about life at OISE. I was accepted. Professor Larkin's encouragement, selflessness and trusting of a student in this way, reminded me of Ms. Akande’s words about the role of the teacher or sharer of knowledge:

“Recognize and cultivate the strength in each person that you engage. Even if your encouragement and their intelligence sees them move past you. You have contributed to that."

A community of inspiration and encouragement

I found myself in my first year at OISE, enrolled in Professor Peter Sawchuk's advanced studies in workplace learning class which was filled with both masters and PhD students. Frankly, I felt a little intimidated. A classmate and I would often joke, “What were we thinking?” as we began battling advanced theories and major questions, fresh out of undergrad.

It is hard to name just one person who had an impact on my learning during my degree. However, I must honour Professor Sawchuk. His class became a community for us all, where students at all levels taught one another and were given a chance each week to stand before the class, share progress and research, and receive all the help and ideas in the room.

Professor Sawchuk took time to understand not only my comprehension of course material, but what ideas I had and how they connected to the class. I was fortunate to have Professor Sawchuk direct my independent master's thesis in our shared research area of labour movement studies and workplace learning.

With patience, he helped advance my learning goals and perspectives. He “recognized my individuality,” as Ms. Akande would say – an important part of teaching and learning.

Involved beyond the classroom

Across my time at the university, I've also participated in a number of ways outside of my courses: I was a researcher at the Munk School of Global Affairs; I am also a researcher with the Youth, Activism, & Community (YAC) group of scholars, a New College/OISE based research initiative; and I was Vice President, Academic of the students' association at my home department at OISE.

My involvement in all of these groups offered great returns in terms of being able to contribute and grow well beyond the university. Community engagement is useful for practical learning so despite being a busy commuter student, I made time to fit all my roles together.

As Ms. Akande said of her learning, the university has made it possible for one’s mind to travel. And so, I will keep travelling. I plan to enrol in a PhD program in the future at OISE, where I look forward to contributing my ideas, to be shared with the world – to continue learning.

Congratulations to the OISE Class of 2019

May you consider your education some form of light in your own lives and the lives of others. Let your learning bring light where and when needed.

My grandmother Mma asked me when I was young boy in school, "for whom, is your learning?" I believe this is a question worth asking of oneself and the world, as you embark on the next phase of your journey.

Congratulations to my fellow graduates. Indeed, your education is light.