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melkoosmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mama Mathabane is the central teacher figure in Mark Mathabane's Kaffir Boy. The main character, Johannes (who later changes his name to Mark), learns both virtue and street smarts from his mother, who instructs him mainly through traditional stories. Mama, a member of the Tsonga tribe in South Africa, knows folklore, legends, songs, and proverbs from her childhood.

Mama's position as teacher may seem unusual because she does not know how to read. When Johannes learns to read, she seems in awe of his knowledge. However, he continues to value her wisdom, recognizing that not all knowledge comes from books.

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