Nobantu Mshumpela: Finding the beauty of maths

On Youth Day it’s fitting to celebrate Nobantu Mshumpela, one of our own team members! This determined young woman started as a tutor on the JumpStart programme, and has since completed and expanded her qualifications to meet her new career challenges. Nobantu is a co-ordinator of the JumpStart Foundation’s Ekurhuleni South programme who has successfully transitioned from being a tutor into the world of meaningful work. She grew up in a large family in Katlehong, where education was highly valued. Her career journey started with studies in beauty therapy, but in 2017 as a JumpStart intern, she discovered how sharing the beauty of maths gave life a different kind of joy.

Falling in love with maths

In Grade 3 at Monde Primary our principal, Mrs Mbambela, was very passionate about mathematics. She introduced the exciting Maths 24 game, which was lots of fun. Four numbers were shown on flash cards and we had to arrive at the number 24 by addition, subtraction, multiplication or division, using each number only once. Speed was essential as we competed against each other in groups and against the clock. The winners took on other classes, then other grades, and eventually competed against neighbouring schools. It was a fabulous game and we fell in love with maths. I was thrilled to find myself in the winning team occasionally, and now have a secure grasp of maths.

Finding my sweet spot

My aunt, a deputy principal in a JumpStart school, knew my way with children. When the programme was introduced in 2016 she encouraged me to apply. At that stage, my interest in the art of makeup and beauty care had led me to a somatology diploma. I applied to be an intern at Tamaho Primary and soon discovered I loved helping learners befriend maths. It was shocking to see how many were genuinely fearful of maths. I watched them progress to a new level of skill with the increased time and attention we gave them. It was fulfilling and very satisfying to make a difference to those young learners who had so many barriers to learning in townships.

My work is a privilege

At JumpStart I coordinate and train interns as I oversee the daily running of the NumberSense paper and digital programme in Ekurhuleni South. I assist the programme director, Jabu Thomo, in recruitment and we work at developing a highly effective and efficient team of interns. Ongoing training of JumpTrak, NumberSense, paper workbook concepts and monitoring the manual marking is what I do. Building and strengthening relationships with teachers and the School Management Team is another part of my work. In practical terms that means I greet them, let them know I’m available for any questions or support. Some teachers need to know more about tablets, and similar practical stuff.

The beauty of teamwork

In our culture all the children raised in the same household are siblings and all the elders are Mum and Dad. Growing up in a very big family, raised by my mum, my uncle and aunt, and my grandmother was a lot of fun. If one person sang a song, then everyone hummed that tune for a week. If one person bought a dress, then three other sisters would try it on immediately. There were cat fights and laughter. Our parents were very strict and instilled good values in us. This background developed my capacity to be a solid team player, which matters at JumpStart.

Empowering teachers

When I find a teacher taking the lead in a NumberSense lesson I know they now understand NumberSense and what it’s designed to do, and feels confident enough to teach a topic on their own. It’s hugely gratifying to see the benefits of our teacher training which empowers the teachers’ own maths understanding, enabling them and giving them confidence on topics where they felt shaky. 

In a recent training session, a couple of Grade 4 maths teachers found they could catch up and consolidate their grasp where previously they’d felt unsure. At a recent Brombacher training session on fractions a teacher shared that she had insight at last on how to teach fractions correctly. This was a positive experience that helped her grow her skills and boost her confidence.

A beautiful future…

After completing my somatology qualification in 2019, I began a degree in Public Relations through UNISA. Just last month, I started an online Diploma in Project Management through UCT, which I’m really enjoying. Learning how to manage any project is useful in my current role. With hard work and disciplined focus I know I’ll reach my goals. Now in my third year, I’m almost at the finish line of my degree.

I want to tell the tutors and interns who come to us that the sky’s the limit. With JumpStart, the children in our classrooms can have a beautiful future of their own! I’m going to use all my qualifications to empower and enrich myself. I aim to be so successful that I can become a philanthropist in my own right!

Funding the programme

Scaling the programme is an ongoing challenge and more support means we can reach more young learners. The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Sasol, Old Mutual, Nedbank Private Wealth, Lightstone, Instasol, KSB, Bay Engineering are helping schools in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Free State. Email Betty Oliphant on contactus@jumpstart.org.za to find out how to become part of the solution.

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