Singing and StudyAssist drives Keneuwe’s hope

JumpStart tutor, Keneuwe Lisenyane, sits on a low brightly coloured plastic chair at Buyani Primary, near Lenasia. One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive… As she sings, she holds 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 too, joining in, copying her, singing along beside her.

Inspiring trust and curiosity

“To inspire their trust and curiosity about you, and about numbers, you must get down to their level, both physically and emotionally,” she says, explaining her teaching philosophy. “JumpStart teaches us how to educate young children using different tools and tricks.” A natural educator with a vast thirst for knowledge, Keneuwe remembers a childhood game. “We 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, and if I got the chance, I would be a kind teacher!”

Like mother like daughter

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 to explain basic concepts and 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.”

Singing is a language for children

It soon became clear that Keneuwe was a favourite at the school. “When she went on maternity leave,” said Mrs Modikwe, her HOD, “the children came to may office asking after ‘their maths teacher’.” Now Keneuwe is thriving as a student, eager to get home after work and pick up her books. She hums the lullaby Thula Mtwana to Karabo (now nine months), which settles him in his cot. Then she hits her own desk, which doubles as the kitchen table. Learning is deeply woven into the daily fabric of her life.

Work, motherhood and studies

“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. “My studies inspire me. I will be a professional teacher by the end of this course, able to give the kids even more knowledge.”

‘Ndizakulinda’ by Vusi Nova is her 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.”

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