Last month we focused on Betty Oliphant, the first JumpStart staff member to be employed, back in 2011. She shared her recollections of the early days when she helped out as a receptionist in the JumpCO office. In those days, JumpStart was a tiny organisation and its founder was a solo pilot. The organisation has grown substantially over the years and so has the staff complement. The newest addition to the team, Ditiro Madiseng, was appointed in February as an Executive Assistant, helping the General Manager, Callen Hodgskiss, and Steve Mahony, our CEO. Ditiro talked about the formative elements that helped her become the woman she is now.
From fine to fearful to fun!
My first encounter with maths in primary school went well enough. I was an A or B+ student, but when I got to high school people seemed doubtful about my capacity to study maths and science. Unfortunately I believed this and became fearful around maths. In the days before “maths lit” one could matriculate without maths as a subject, so in Grade 11, I turned to history and business economics.
Many years later I discovered accounting on the syllabus of my post-graduate studies in Business & Office Management at UNISA. To my surprise I found myself coping with maths and realised the negative connotations surrounding it were misplaced. Now when I’m planning my next race, I’m calculating the splits I’ll need to sustain over the distance… I’ve been helps me think about the role that teachers play in children’s lives. Their words carry so much power to influence young lives for better or worse.
The dailiness of maths
Maths gets a bad rap, but if we saw how much maths enters every day, it would make learning it easier. For example, when you park your car you are intuitively using geometry and measurement. If you get the calculations wrong, denting your paintwork could prove a costly mistake. As an adult I see how maths features in every aspect of life. It underpins so much strategic thinking, like taking directions and time management. As an athlete, I’m making calculations when I run, figuring out how fast I’m going over a certain distance. I’m pleased to be part of an organisation helping teachers to inspire learners to see maths as an exciting subject.
A balancing act
While studying for a BA Corporate Communications at UJ I worked as a waitress. That taught me accountability. In order to book my work shifts without overlapping lectures, I knew my diary and deadlines by heart. I learned to calculate my tips, budget my salary, and learned planning so that classes, exams, and my shifts didn’t collide.
At a practical level, navigating the space between the restaurant and kitchen taught me to balance the weight, shape and heat of each item carried to the table. Learning how to balance three or four plates without dropping them was a metaphor and a transferable skill that helps me now to execute the practicalities of being an Executive Assistant. Examining expense claims and monitoring advance requests, tallying a travel log and keeping diaries, tracking expenditure and doing reconciliation, managing procurement and finance includes lots of numbers so I’m glad I’ve made friends with mathematics!
Learning about the NPO space
My most recent studies took shape on the Social Entrepreneurship Programme with Gordon Institute of Business Science. That gave me more clarity around NGO space where I’ve been working for the last seven years. This sector is making a difference. It’s different from Government, different from the corporate sector. It’s a sector on its own and this knowledge proved handy in my current role.
When my mother was in her early 40s she saw my birth as a miracle. My nam means “an act of God”. She raised me as a single mother with my grandmother as a kind and wise influence. I spent a lot of time with Nkoko and her support was a key factor in me developing confidence and curiosity. After school, my mother and grandmother were deeply interested in how my day had gone. When things did not go well there was no shouting or punishment, just their support building me up. They were keen to find out how to help? Do you need assistance from your uncle? What help do you need? Their support and love made me who I am. One can overcome the difficult stuff that inevitably comes your way with that level of support.
From early childhood I loved to explore and figure out new things. At school I was always last on the sports field, but now, running and hiking get me up in the morning. I’m always up for a challenge and keen to try new things – especially if someone says I can’t.
I want to discover what’s on the other side of the world. What if I can actually do this hard thing? I ask myself! If I run 42km what will happen? Can I do it? Can I hike this difficult trail? At Easter, I ran an 11km race in the pouring rain. With that box ticked I can say I’m a proper runner now!
Becoming comfortable and confident
I’m currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, who describes coming from small beginnings to overcome many challenges. This biography inspires me to see what’s possible in my own life. Securing a bursary to study at GIBS was part of my own development, and helped me becoming comfortable and confident with who I am.
I’ve always pushed myself to do things and I see this as a real strength. Recently I was asked to take minutes at JumpStart’s board meeting, which was exciting. To be trusted with this responsibility by my new colleagues… well, it felt good!
Partner with us
JumpStart needs companies who will partner with us to ensure that maths becomes fun and fearless so that each person on our programme can reach their full potential. Can you help us to expand our programme into schools in your area? Do you need to optimise your Skills Development expenditure? How about contributing to our bursary fund. Email Betty Oliphant to start a conversation about getting involved in this vibrant and powerful work.