During 2020 Mrs Adelina Msimango shared her office and her heart with four JumpStart interns. As Head of Department (Intersen) at Sekgutlong Primary School she took care of the tutors of the JumpStart programme, which is funded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. As the year draws to a close, she reflects on how they are learning to teach mathematics to learners from Grade 1 to Grade 4. Once unemployed youth, they spent many hours this year helping parents of learners at the school to continue their children’s maths education during lockdown.
Mrs Msimango watched with delight as Simphiwe Mtshali, Given Msibi, Lesedi Moloi and Nthabiseng Ngoepe got involved in maths education at the school. She noticed how they learned about learning, discovering their own passionate enthusiasm for the teaching profession. She chats about becoming a teacher, Covid’s impact, and she encourages up and coming educators.
Who encouraged you to become a teacher?
My mother was my mentor. She believed that without education we can’t survive. Despite our family’s poverty, she encouraged me to finish matric and to look for a temporary job. I found my way to a publishing house that printed industry year books and buyers guides. I swept the floor and kept the place clean, but my heart wasn’t in it. My mother promised that with that job I would be able to pay for college. She really believed in me. Back then, it was less expensive than now. I did as she said and God helped me to pay to attend teachers college. The turning point came while standing beside the copy machine, fearing that I would be stuck there forever. Alone with my thoughts I imagined returning to school. I felt in my bones that I didn’t belong in that place. I simply had to attend to my own further education. That November, I’d had enough. I didn’t go back there after getting paid that month end. I told my mother that the R400 I had earned would pay for my registration at the college.
How did Covid-19 impact you this year?
The lengthy lockdown was tremendously disturbing. It disrupted our teaching programme like nothing ever before. Fortunately, with JumpStart tutors who co-ordinated the home learning programme, foundation phase learners stayed on track with mathematics. This was a big plus for many learners. Unfortunately, many other important subjects in the normal teaching plan didn’t get the necessary time. This will leave learners entering high school next year at a considerable disadvantage. Covid-19 taught me that we are equal in life, no matter how rich or educated. This disease affected everybody. The pain we all felt was the same. It showed me to respect life and cherish every moment I have with the people I love. I realised just how much we need each other, and that no human can live in isolation.
Which JumpStart tutor stands out for you?
All four are so impressive! They all seem to know exactly why they are here and they’re making a big impact. Each one has qualities that make for excellence in the teaching profession. I wish they could start teaching right now, because each one has the necessary aptitude and attitude. I share my office with them, so I see their focus and dedication. Each one goes above and beyond the call of duty. They try always to explain maths challenges to the learners in practical ways, taking time to explain everything to those who don’t understand. They already have the qualities of a good teacher: sense of humour, accountability, patience. When they show up to school, they are so committed to what they are doing. During lockdown, they were teaching the parents to help their children to use the JumpStart app via WhatsApp groups. I love their passion and really wish them a bright future in teaching!
What do prospective teachers need to know?
I often recommend teaching to young people, especially those who are clearly going to make good role models for the children in their care. It’s so important for learners to have people to look up to and to emulate. Some young people think that teaching is for those who didn’t get a chance to go to University, but that’s not the case! Sometimes you have to wait until you become a teacher to understand how much you become a beacon of light, providing whole school communities with direction.
Teaching is not for cowards. As a teacher you will shape the future of individual people and, in turn, whole groups of people. Children are not carbon copies and a one size fits all approach never works. Do not think of teaching as a fashionable profession, but as a practical aid to providing a foundation, direction and continuity for the learners you oversee. It is wonderful to see the individual things each child does. You will carry the burden of building responsible members of the community, and seeing how that plays out in each unique and original life is the greatest privilege! I encourage students to apply to NSFAS or Funza Lushaka for bursaries before the closing date in January 2021.
Partner with JumpStart
Our mission is to empower the next generation of young South Africans with the necessary skills so that they are ready to contribute as educators. Your financial support of JumpStart’s StudyAssist bursary scheme will make a significant difference to mathematics educators like Adelina Msimango and the tutors learning how to teach mathematics.
Meet your skills development obligations as per the Revised B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice, or donate and receive a SARS Section 18A certificate. Please email Betty Oliphant for more information.