JumpStart’s team talks about a year of lockdown

JumpStart team
JumpStart team members Zintle Makumsha, Daniella Lekgau and Nobantu Mshumpela are vibrant faces behind their masks!

Way back when… in January 2020, before we all wore masks and sanitised our hands into old age, our team welcomed the interns to the year that had just kicked off! We even wrote a blog post about the day – Terrific 20-somethings learn and hope! A few short weeks later, education as we knew it changed. Nobody could foretell how drastically our lives would be impacted. Every facet of life transformed overnight. Almost a year on, the JumpStart team reflects on how we shifted gear, how we helped children to continue learning maths, how we brought in their parents via digital platforms, and how we plan to keep going and improving!

Jabu Thomo   

Our programme director, Jabu, reflects on the systems we had in place that helped us implement a contingency plan.

“First we allowed the learners to use their NumberSense workbooks at home, and created Whatsapp groups and group SMS’s to support the learners remotely. Then we gave them free access to the NumberSense app, and mobile data so that they could use the app. To help keep the learners motivated, we offered party packs to those learners who completed the most activities during lockdown. When learners were allowed back to school, we distributed personal protective equipment to all learners, tutors, and JumpStart staff.”

Jabu believes that the areas of improvement that will have the most impact are data collection and communication with all stakeholders.

Zintle Makumsha

Zintle is a project coordinator. She outlined the strengths and characteristics of our team that helped us succeed:
“Acknowledging the challenges we faced last year, it was clear that optimism and communication were essential to keeping the programme going. The continuous support of the Ekurhuleni South District and their availability was essential. If it hadn’t been for frequent communication with the schools, none of our plans would have succeeded. 

“The true heroes though were the interns. They worked hard, were flexible, reliable, and took initiative to keep things going. Their courage was unmatched in communicating with parents and supporting the learners virtually. We owe a lot to these youth who contributed tirelessly, working long hours, struggling with load-shedding and difficulties of communication with busy parents. Hats off to all our tutors who learned to teach from home.”

Daniella Lekgau

Daniella heads up our Robotics and Coding programme. On the 16th of March, she remembers waking up to discover that South Africa had hit a new high of positive cases. She immediately thought there was no way to continue the robotics lessons in person. 

“After a phone call that morning with Callen, our General Manager, it was decided that the programme would have to be suspended. After informing the principals and schools of the decision, which they supported, the next step was to collect the robotics equipment,” she said.

“It was hard to adjust to not physically going into the field to help support our interns and the JumpStart Programme in schools,” she said. “Looking back, I can say that learners, parents and HOD’s were very engaging in our digital programme. We had parents and teachers WhatsApp groups to support all learners doing digital Numbersense activities. All this happened throughout the day and nights! Parents and learners were all excited to be part of the home learning programme. Furthermore, I compiled weekly data analysis reports that showed all activities done by learners. This helped us to monitor how much work the learners were doing and the overall performance of each learner per activity.”

Not long after discontinuing the in-person robotics programme, Daniella took the learning into a virtual environment. Now all the learners can participate from the safety of their own homes. The next step for our virtual coding and robotics programme is to commercialise the material for the private school market. We are looking for a sponsor to support our expansion.

Nobantu Mshumpela

Nobantu is another project coordinator. We asked her about the effects of Covid-19 on her work and lifestyle.

“I restructured my daily activities to accommodate the new lifestyle that Covid imposed on us. This accelerated the move into different digital learning and working methods. Fortunately, all the stakeholders were able to engage with the content that we gave them, but it also meant that sometimes learning continued late at night, whereas in the past work was limited to school hours.”

She saw how hard the youth tutors worked across the board and praised their efforts. “These are remarkable young men and women who went above and beyond the call of duty to support the learners and their parents. They learned new skills and continued in many cases, to pursue their own studies. These are the teachers of the future and we are very fortunate to have them on our team.”

Betty Oliphant

Betty, our office and financial administrator keeps the cogs of the JumpStart machine well oiled and friction free. She also keeps track of the money! It was relatively easy to adapt to working from home.

“I had all the equipment I needed to continue with my daily tasks and support the JumpStart team. The technology is constantly improving and enhancing our ability to carry out our tasks. My biggest challenge about not being able to go to the office was missing my colleagues. The biggest improvement that will help JumpStart is getting better internet connections for all stakeholders.”

Leizel Francis

Our people development manager describes the JumpStart team in enthusiastic terms!

“This remarkable group of people is nimble, innovative, adaptable and passionate. Their ability to band together, seek solutions and speedily implement is proof of the team’s talent, commitment and decisive leadership. JumpStart’s call to action is premised by the team’s deep concern for learners and maths education. All of them are deeply committed to the cause of improving maths education in South African primary schools. It is a joy to work with them!”

Help us help South Africa

Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Sasol, and our newest partner, Senator International, South Africa enable us to continue doing our work. Can you assist the JumpStart team to continue transforming South Africa’s underperforming classrooms. Please email Betty Oliphant to learn how your contribution will help you meet your B-BBEE scorecard.

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