Lessons from “Welma” by Curwyn Mapaling

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Even though I am blessed to have several wise, older, women in my life whom I would consider “mothers”, as the African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child”, this is dedicated to my one and only biological mother. 

I carry this wisdom not only because of the things she has said to me over the years but because she is a living example of it.  It goes without saying that I have learnt countless lessons from my mother, but here are the three which have helped define me and which I hold in mind as well as in spirit on a daily basis.


The value and importance of resilience is something my mother taught me in spades.  She never actually told me to “be resilient”, instead she showed and continues to demonstrate the power of resilience to me.  

My mother has been living with diabetes ever since my birth.  A few years ago, she decided to further her education by pursuing a degree at a higher education institution.  Despite the countless and never ending responsibilities of being a wife, a mother of three, and a full-time foundation phase teacher, she took on the additional life stressors associated with being a student.  Even within these dire circumstances and sometimes varying degrees of health she continued to preserve.  There were days throughout her studies where her blood sugar levels were really dismal and I don’t think anyone would have judged her if she had dropped out but she remained resilient.  Needless to say, Welma has grit! 

You’ll never learn unless you try.

No matter how daunting a task or phase of life may seem or may have seemed at the time, I’m glad I had these words in the back of my mind otherwise I would potentially not be as open as well as receptive to learning and trying new things as I currently am.  As someone who works in an academic environment with the current shift and need for transformation, Africanisation and decolonisation, being willing to learn and try new approaches as well as practices is no longer negotiable.

For instance, people are often shocked to hear that baking is one of my favourite hobbies.  This was a process which evolved from observing her bake as a young child, to baking with her and eventually baking independently. All because she encouraged me to try and by doing so I learnt.  On the other hand, interestingly enough, I am yet to try cooking, but how else will I learn?

If you do something, do it right so that you don’t have to do it again.

Easier said than done, right?  Especially given the pressures of life but I have found it to be a tremendous time saver as well as the occasional sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  I’ve always found it to resonate with the well-known “work smarter and not harder” saying.   

My mother has said this to me with reference to everything from cleaning to my own studies, and thankfully I never had to repeat any school year nor academic module or qualification.  It even applies to my work as I strive to deliver quality work the first time round.  This does not mean that I have not failed at things throughout my life, it simply means I have not been lazy in my pursuit of them. Failure is inevitable but it has made the notion of me not working hard impossible.   


Curwyn Mapaling is currently Academic Advisor to the School of Engineering at the Nelson Mandela University and Additional Member of the Community and Social Psychology Division (CaSP) of the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA). He holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and Community Counselling from Stellenbosch University.  Curwyn, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and a member of the Abe Bailey Fellowship, is passionate about improving education and community mental health in South Africa as a servant leader.

Contact information: curwyn.mapaling@gmail.com