Meet Nonkanyiso: dynamic social change agent through science

Here’s the first of our ‘Meet the Team’ segments – snapshots of the people that work with us and the kind of work that they do. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do! Nathalie Koenig (NK) recently caught up with Nonkanyiso Vokwana (NV), our science specialist.

NK: What is your name?

NV: I am Nonkanyiso Vokwana. At home they call me Queenana.

What is your position at Axium Education?

I am a science teacher.

Tell us a little about your average work day at Axium?

I wake up in the morning, and head up the hill to the office. There, I prepare for teacher networks, science lessons, study groups and ensure that the content is aligned with the current CAPS requirements. I especially enjoy looking for fun experiments and visual teaching aids that can be shared with teachers and students. In the afternoon, I head out to study groups, which happen at schools located around Zithulele. These are afternoon study sessions where learners get the opportunity to practice what they’ve been taught at Ekukhuleni (Saturday classes for selected learners). Those that don’t attend Ekhukuleni are also invited to study groups, therefore getting the opportunity to be supported by Axium at school. When study groups end at 16:30, I come to my home, prepare a warm meal and start engaging with the word of God.

What brought you to Zithulele, and Axium Education?

I am a graduate majoring in chemistry and because of those qualifications I ended up in the petrochemical industry as a research scientist. In that job – fulfilling as it was in terms of the package at the end of the month – there was little fulfilment in terms of boosting my spirit. That is when I started probing, talking to God. He told me that I am a future teacher and I then started looking at the options around me. Research in education was the closest step, since I already had honours. I then enrolled in a university to do my Masters in chemistry education. After intense engagement with that research study, I realised that I would love to explore what I’ve learnt through my masters in a real and practical way – and that is how I ended up here, in Zithulele. At the centre of my mandate here, is the support of teachers in terms of content they are teaching. And that, of course, would contribute to their development as teachers that are experts in the content.

If you were driving from Zithulele to Mqanduli with the Minister of Education, what might you say to her?

I would tell her that I appreciate the efforts that she is making to improve science and maths in South Africa at large. However, I would also mention to her that there is another side that I think no one is taking serious consideration of – and that is teacher professional development. This is very important, and – Minister Angie, here’s why: It is because for us to have quality passes, we need quality teachers – and I’m not so convinced that the quality of our teachers is up to standard. It is therefore our responsibility as citizens of this country to try and not simply point fingers at our teachers, but support them as much as we can. We are aware of numerous curriculum changes, and that might have distracted the teachers, so they need support more than blame being put on their shoulders.

What do you do for fun in Zithulele?

I read a lot, and connect with the Lord. I also love singing, of course. I walk along the main road in the mornings and I go to church on Saturdays. Though Zithulele is a small place, it suits me as I enjoy being alone where I can think, dream and strategise. Strategy is particularly important as I have joined the struggle of South Africa in fighting for quality education, so while at that, I need to be strategic – so that I pick out my tools carefully.

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