Maths in Mpumalanga with Zintle Makumsha

Zintle Makumsha is a smiling young woman wearing a red shirt.

On Women’s Day we celebrate our team of strong, capable and visionary women who show up daily to transform under-resourced classrooms into centres of mathematical excellence, while tackling the topic of youth employment. With support for our Bridge Bursary fund, we can empower young women like Zintle Makumsha, who aspire to be teachers in their own right.

Our “fun and fearless” team work in the field across four provinces as our programme continues to expand, and behind the scenes in the office. Our excellent squad comprises Nomta Ndola, Nobantu Mshumpela, Betty Oliphant, Daniella Lekgau, Ditiro Madiseng and Zintle Makumsha, who shares her story this month.

Zintle is the daughter of two teachers and comes from a large family with conservative traditional values. She brings a gentle spirit of kindly curiosity to her work as Project Coordinator for our Mpumalanga and Ekurhuleni South projects.

Where it all started

I had my fair share of great and terrible maths teachers at school! Ms Bosch saved the day at Aliwal North High School by helping me befriend trigonometry in Grade 10 . She made it so simple. With extra hard work I soon caught up after missing the basics. When it came to deciding my future I considered air traffic control and journalism but settled on a B.Ed in Intermediate Phase. I wanted to become the maths teacher I never had in primary school. If you lose it in primary school, then high school is a struggle.

Studies and discoveries

I joined Jumpstart in the second year of my B.Ed. As soon as I got into the classroom I knew I was on the right path. Initially, I thought the NumberSense books were simple, and imagined that any learner could do the sums… but then… the challenge began. I brought counting stones and number charts to school and bothered Jabu for teaching aids. There had to be better ways to help learners grasp mathematics, and I wanted to figure them out. Once you see children reaching an understanding of the subject there’s no greater reward. I have immense respect for teachers who manage in overcrowded primary school classrooms. They are superheroes dealing with an unbelievable problem.

A psychological approach

Human behaviour fascinates me, so I especially enjoyed psychology as a B.Ed subject. I found myself wondering about people’s actions and how they treat each other. The human mind has so much power and I like to observe how culture influences us. I noticed children at school who felt free to talk to the teacher, yet they didn’t perform well. Their confidence didn’t match their ability. What leads to good performance? Intelligence or a need to impress one’s parents? How does upbringing impact academic results?

Behind the scenes

Being interested in people helps me recognise underperforming learners. There’s always more to the story behind poor marks. If a learner is particularly playful, find out if they have a pencil. In later grades when you encounter misbehaviour, ask whether the learner can actually read. I assess problems by discovering what’s behind them. As a coordinator, this approach helps me manage people who are different. When I’m assisting interns with problems, I like to sit down with them and figure things out.

Mpumalanga – new terrain

When the Penreach connection was being mapped out for JumpStart’s expansion into Mpumalanga two years ago, it was clear that the project would need a dedicated leader. Funding had been secured from Nedbank Private Wealth and a good connection was established with the teams at the schools. As the plans were being finalised, the team recognised that Zintle Makumsha was the right person to ensure the project’s success. 

Leadership potential

Jabu Thomo, our Educational Programme Director said, “It was an easy decision to ask Zintle Makumsha to lead the Mpumalanga programme because she shows leadership qualities and gained project management experience in the Johannesburg programme. With five new schools requiring onboarding and Penreach’s experienced programme coordinators able to show her the ropes we felt confident she could manage well.”

Zintle took on the challenge despite her shyness. She was soon engaged in new  relationships with school management teams in Mpumalanga where she trains interns on using the NumberSense workbooks and the JumpTrak app. 

New project, new learning

“It was super scary at first but the warmth I received soon changed all that. The Penreach interaction has taught me that every cent counts. I took budgeting for granted previously, so this was a great learning point. I’ve benefited from new experiences, going to new places, learning to be more confident despite being an introvert!

Honours and onwards

Early this year I completed a short course in Project Management at the University of Pretoria. I look forward to applying my new knowledge at work. My Honours in Education is nearly finished. By working for an NGO like JumpStart I can reach more learners than I could as a class teacher.

The highlight of this job is hearing stories of children who were unable to identify numbers or couldn’t count, now being able to work independently after using the NumberSense workbooks. Another immense achievement that comes with this work is waiting for teachers who were not supportive of the programme in the beginning finding their way to using the NumberSense resources in their classrooms with confidence. Once they buy into it, they see the benefits.

Partner with us

On Women’s Day we encourage donors to help talented young women like Zintle Makumsha to get started on their B.Ed degrees! Donate via Forgood, or email Betty Oliphant to make a difference.

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