One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive...
Keneuwe Lisenyane sits on a low brightly coloured plastic chair at Buyani Primary (near Lenasia). As she sings, holding up her fingers one by one, the semi-circle of grade one learners leans in to her, bright-eyed and hopeful. They hold up their fingers, joining in, copying her.
“You must get down to their level, both physically and emotionally, to inspire their trust and curiosity about you, and about numbers,” she says, explaining her teaching philosophy.
A natural educator with a vast thirst for knowledge, Keneuwe remembers a game from her childhood: “I used to play school-school with my older sister, but in the game she was a cruel teacher who threatened to beat me. I knew I could do better! I would be a kind teacher if I got the chance…”
As a 20-year-old matriculant in 2011, she dreamed of following in her mother’s footsteps to become a teacher. Her goal was a Bachelor of Education, through UNISA, but the family’s purse wouldn’t stretch that far. Today, Keneuwe not only has the chance to teach, but she also has the opportunity to study further towards a Diploma in Grade R Teaching through SANTS with a JumpStart StudyAssist bursary.
“I’m dedicated to my work,” she says, recalling the joy of being selected as a JumpStart tutor in July 2018. “Four of us were chosen! And then the training began. We learned how to explain basic concepts, how to help the learners - some grab on quickly, but others really struggle. We learned to mark their work digitally on the JumpTrak app, and manually in the NumberSense workbooks, where the learners can see their own progress.”
During her maternity leave last year, it soon became clear that Keneuwe was a favourite at the school. Mrs Modikwe, her HOD, said the children came to her office often, asking where “their maths teacher” was. Now she is thriving as a student and is eager to get home after work.
She hums Thula Mtwana, a lullaby, to Karabo (now nine months) to settle him in his cot. Then she hits her own desk, which doubles as the kitchen table and drinks deeply from her textbooks. Learning is deeply woven into the daily fabric of her life.
“Student life is hectic, but once my assignments are done, everyone relaxes,” she says. She is adjusting to her study time table and enjoys Saturday classes, where she meets other working mothers who are learning to balance their studies. “Being a student inspires me. At the end of this course I will be a professional teacher, able to give the kids even more knowledge.”
‘Ndizakulinda’ by Vusi Nova is a favourite song. “I love this song about waiting,” says Keneuwe, “because I needed patience to get here. Thinking of the children, my passion, it’s been worth every minute.”