Nomta Ntola is spearheading JumpStart’s exciting move into primary schools in the Eastern Cape. With the support of Old Mutual Education Flagship Project and the Department of Education in the Eastern Cape, she recently commenced the onboarding of 72 educational assistants in the Amathole East and Chris Hani East districts in a new four-year 50-school initiative. This exciting partnership (which includes NPOs, Class Act and Seed Educational Trust) aims to fill the gaps in maths education. Although many challenges predated the pandemic, they became more prominent and problematic in the wake of Covid-19 in isolated rural schools throughout the province.
A key aspect of the JumpStart programme is the introduction of home language learning in mathematics for all primary school learners. With her extensive experience working with non-profits, foundation phase educators, and mathematics improvement programmes, Nomta is a perfect fit. This new venture aims to benefit about 5000 learners from Grade 1 to 7.
Maths interventions matter
The appeal of JumpStart lay in its location – Nomta’s home terrain – and its goal to enhance mathematics learning by teaching it in isiXhosa, the learners’ mother tongue. “I wanted to plough back into my own community and province, and I’ve always been a maths person. So joining JumpStart made sense. I absolutely love that we’re addressing the problem of maths by catching them at a young age. Extra maths classes in Grade 12 is too little too late. Maths interventions matter, and the earlier they can be implemented, the more effective they are,” she said.
KZN experience prepared the way
Nomta worked with Willowvale’s rural schools in a similar project for the last three years. She experienced dedicated teachers and learners, eager to gain knowledge and skills, hungry to improve education in their communities. Nomta shared that “… it was easy to communicate in a smaller programme, with 26 principals at schools based fairly close together geographically. This is a bigger, more wide-spread project and I came on board once the project was already in motion. We have put systems in place to ensure the project’s long term success and I look forward to learning from my new colleagues.”
The Eastern Cape is unique
Born and bred in the Eastern Cape, Nomta’s teaching experience in the Eastern Cape spans more than 20 years. “I understand the challenges this province faces well, and believe we can overcome them. The Eastern Cape is not like other provinces. Many schools here have never been in a project like this before and are learning how it works. There’s much excitement and many expectations, and a lot of moving parts. Encouraging people along the way, explaining how things work, and cheerleading along the way all smoothes the process. I try to inject humility and bring the real me in every interaction,” she said.
Hope for the rural child
Without a solid understanding of maths, disadvantaged learners cannot improve their skills. Nomta wants learners from the poorest areas to know that maths is for them too – not only for learners in urban areas. “Because of this intervention, many learners will build the fundamental skills so set them up for a bright maths future. It’s a joy to be part of such a positive intervention,” says Nomta. “Rural child, you can do it!”
Change the game
Nomta Ntola offered encouragement to the tutors who are learning new skills, many who are first time educator assistants. “Remember that you are the game changers. You’re on the field, so don’t give up. The success of this programme depends on you. We acknowledge your huge contribution and don’t take it lightly,” she said.
“Each day will be different but let’s look forward a year or two, things will be significantly better for these learners. Some things might challenge you now, but you will make it through. At the end of the tunnel it’s going to be okay.” She continues, “By focusing on the rural areas, Old Mutual’s impact will be felt more fully. The right schools have been chosen as most have never had interventions like this before. Due to a lack of logistical support, people and schools who’ve never had a chance will get it now. We must work together to make a significant and lasting impression in many young lives. This project is a great vision.”
A team player
Nomta relaxes with a book and is currently reading Eight Days in September by Frank Chikane. “I want to be informed about my country’s politics and history so I can understand and draw my own conclusions,” she says. Nomta is excited to be part of the team. “By establishing good foundations while children are still young, we can be most effective. I look forward to working, sharing and learning with and from the JumpStart team, young and old. I’m inspired by JumpStart’s dedication to finding and creating evidence-based, scalable and effective solutions that can be rolled out and replicated countrywide. No child should fear mathematics in future,” she said.
Support JumpStart’s early grade mathematics initiative
Would you like to support Nomta Ntola? Your company could help us to expand our programme to schools in your area! Optimise your Skills Development expenditure or contribute to our bursary fund. Meet your B-BBEE scorecard by supporting a tutor like Noxolo Myeko. These options align with the revised B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice. Email Betty Oliphant for more information.