Life under lockdown #6: Tumelo Mokoena builds firm foundations

Tumelo Mokoena
Tumelo Mokoena, 22, knows how different life is when you understand and love mathematics!

Tumelo Mokoena is a tutor at Mohlodi Primary School, where he inspires a love of maths to learners in Grades 1,2 and 3. This 22-year-old says that teaching maths has greatly changed since he was in primary school. “Especially, if you consider lockdown learning, teaching via smartphones and devices!” As a tutor he is eager to share his new knowledge with those around him. “Education is not an individual pursuit and I enjoy teaching as well as learning from other tutors,” he explains. Tumelo started a degree focused on politics, but that didn’t go well. He thought about his particular strengths and realised that assisting other people enlivened him. Now he’s studying a B Ed through UNISA with the help of a StudyAssist bursary from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Tutored not tortured

Tumelo loves teaching maths and wants to empower the children in his care. He says, “Most of my learners are excited, always keen to study maths. They love the subject.” He tries to teach in a way that inspires learning. Tumelo remembers feeling afraid during maths classes. “I felt clueless. That was torture!” he says. “I felt confused all the time. I made a decision to grow my interest in maths so that I could finish school. By teaching these learners so young, my students will gain a firm foundation and be spared the torment of not being able to manage maths.”

Building the house from the foundations up

JumpStart’s focus is on the foundation phase, and Tumelo compares education to building a house. If the foundation isn’t strong, the walls will collapse. When he heard about JumpStart, he researched the company to learn all he could. He had already been tutoring via video conferencing, so applied for a position as an intern. Mathematics is a step wise subject. “You can’t put the windows in before the walls are built.”

Dinner with the President

Tumelo Mokoena would love to invite the President to dinner, because he’d like to remind him of a few things! If President Ramaphosa were to focus on education, technology, and science he might better realise the National Development Plan (NDP) outlined by the Government in 2013. Tumelo sees this as the best route to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. “Science can feed us, and helps us better understand the world we live in. It can move the country to greater heights. The country’s growth depends on resources being committed to these three things. We don’t want to be an illiterate generation,” he says. “Education is vital for all.”

Covid-19 as a tutor

During Covid, Tumelo was able to check in regularly with his learners, contacting their parents via WhatsApp. He monitored their progress through the NumberSense app which shows each child’s progress and where they are struggling. Tumelo tries to show up for the kids every day. Sometimes that’s exactly what they need; being there, even when it feels like you can’t do much.

Partner with us to support education for tutors like Tumelo Mokoena

The JumpStart Foundation Trust is a Public Benefit Organisation with a goal of accelerating South African youth into the digital economy through education, qualification and employment. Partner with us and qualify for your SARS Section 18(a) certificate. Or support a tutor like Tumelo with a StudyAssist bursary as a way of meeting your skills development obligations according to the Revised B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice. Email Betty Oliphant for more information.

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