Education with love is a daily happening at Tamaho Primary School in Katlehong. On a mild March morning near the end of the first term, all 43 learners in Mrs Nondumiso Macala’s Grade 2 class wait with excitement. Lined up outside her bright green door, those who have completed their homework are especially happy because they will receive their special “huggy huggy” welcome.
All who’ve passed through her classes speak highly of this much loved and vivacious personality. After 14 years on the staff, she was appointed in 2016 as one of two HODs of the foundation phase, which caters to more than 800 learners from Grade R to 3. Her portfolio includes mentoring and supervising ten other educators, so she is very grateful to have two “angels” — JumpStart interns Hloniphile Mkwanazi and Abongile Mhlola. “They are my left and right hand, especially while I attend other school issues.”
Inspiring discipline by rewarding behaviour
Many children come from impoverished homes that don’t foster learning. “Classroom discipline is poor and there’s never enough time for each child,” she explains. She is a great believer in positive reinforcement as a way to motivate consistent effort and successful education. She rewards those who score 10/10 in their weekly maths test with a warm embrace, a sweet, and a gold star to take home for their parents.
After school, she provides additional academic support to the weakest learners. However, those who live far away miss out. Once the last child leaves, she sweeps her classroom and leaves at 4pm to start marking. Mrs Macala described the NumberSense workbook as a great asset: “Each page has a maths activity. When they’ve mastered some critical building block they go to the next level. If they can work on their own, they progress to the next page. With seven workbook levels, each child can pace themself and advance individually.”
NumberSense is available in the vernacular
The availability of the NumberSense books in the vernacular is a real advantage. Although Tamaho’s educational policy is to teach in English, she switches into Xhosa when needed, and the Xhosa workbook is a useful backup. The workbooks are another tool in her stock of incentives. She says, “The kids love the books so much. Because they have to complete their other work first, they finish fast! When I hand them out, you should see their faces… such big smiles.”
Mrs. Macala is also a fan of JumpTrak. This app is integrated with the NumberSense workbooks, thus providing an instant snapshot of the class’ performance. “We can pinpoint a specific concept that is proving problematic. With a precise sense of how the class is performing, I can see who is number one in the class. I can see who is last and who are the intermediate ones,” she explained.
EGMA results show progress
The annual EGMA results reveal how her class is faring in comparison to other grades, to previous Grade 2 cohorts, and to Grade 2 classes at other schools. “From one year to the next, this programme is doing wonders. Even now, the teachers in Grade 4 report that learners who have progressed through NumberSense perform much better than previous Grade 4 learners. This is so wonderful because now we know we are doing well. You can even ask our supervisor at the Department. My kids are doing well. I’ve seen the results as compared to other schools.”
Mrs. Macala appreciates this education methodology that unlocks teachers’ own pathways to change. “JumpStart keeps me sharp! It helps me think about how we teach, how to improve the situation so that our children can understand better,” she said.
Unlocking educational success
“By helping my learners and my fellow colleagues I see a bigger picture of my school’s educational experience. I am prompted to be successful, knowing that hard work and perseverance lead me to achieve greater professionalism. JumpStart has unlocked success so that I can keep going and stay motivated each and every day.” Partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has enhanced JumpStart’s effectiveness at Tamaho Primary School.
Update via WhatsApp on 6 July~
I miss the children so much. Today only Grade 6 and 7 are returning to school. When I’m at work I’m at peace with myself, standing in front of the class gives me so much joy. I don’t know… How am I going to manage without hugging each child when they finally come back? How will they understand?
Watch this space for an update when Gauteng Department of Education permits foundation phase learners to return to school under Covid-19 guidelines.