Kristi Jooste has been working as a jack-of-all-education-trades at Axium since February 2013, though her involvement in boot camps prior to that puts her deep into the category of old-timer-stalwart. She hails from Cape Town, which she returns to this December, for an undetermined period of time. Though her time at Axium has come to a close, we’re looking forward to seeing her footprints, fingerprints and wheel tracks across the education field – and beyond.
Before she attempted to say her final salani kakuhle, we caught her, tied her down, and forced her to answer some questions…
NK: So two years in Zithulele… Kristi, in a nutshell, how does it make you feel to be heading away from this place that’s been your home?
(Kristi laughs – knowing this to be a trick question, and says “Shut your face”.)
NK: Before we talk about feelings, let’s back track a little – What brought you to Zithulele, and Axium Education?
(Kristi is on her phone, trying to finish admin. The question is repeated as she mumbles to herself unintelligibly.)
KJ: Well… I wanted to learn isiXhosa… I had a faint dream, once upon a year at varsity to be able to connect with more people in South Africa, so I wanted to start by learning one African language fluently. During my PGCE, a penny dropped a little deeper for me regarding the reality of education in the majority of the country. In short, it was very different to my own, particularly in rural areas. At the same time, Craig Paxton was doing Boot Camps with local schools around Zithulele, of which I attended one or two – as an enthusiastic, naive new teacher.
NK: And the rest, as they say, is history?
KJ: Unyanisile. (True story)
NK: You’ve been involved in a lot of Axium’s programmes – any favourites amongst them?
KJ: I love teaching. I’ve loved working with teachers. We have a fantastic team of people to work with here – and I’ve loved that. I love getting free stuff. Stuff that we need, that is. Stuff that makes a difference. There’s this satisfaction that comes with receiving an email in response to a request from another delightful individual or organisation that wants to meet a need. Fritz, I also love playing! So ice-breakers, songs, anything that gives me an opportunity to have fun with kids and cause some nonsense – I love that stuff! Oh but you asked about programmes… Um, probably being in the classroom with Ekukhuleni kids. Ultimate best: Zamisa’ing the pot, and facilitating a spot of learning at Ekukhuleni Boot Camp. Love that stuff.
NK: Without thinking too long (Kristi laughs) – what has been your top challenge working in this space?
Engaging across the language barrier has been one of the most difficult realities to grapple with. This means that engagement in the classroom has taken on a different form.
KJ: First thing that springs to mind is that I haven’t been able to mediate conflict amongst kids here well. Not that there is a lot of conflict, this is just something I took for granted when teaching in my own language. It just means it’s more difficult to hear each story fully.
NK: Looking back at your time with Axium, any highlights that stand out?
KJ: Teaching. The opportunity to try my hand at teaching an eclectic variety of subjects that I would probably otherwise not have had the opportunity to teach. That’s been pretty amaymay.
Hmmm… Multilingual language and literacy? Little ninja sponging from colleagues who know and love this topic more than me.
And also, I got to lay foundations for learning a new language which I probably now speak like a two-year-old (editors note – I think she may be 2.5 years old, maybe 3. Let’s call her a toddler.) What a stimulating, enlightening, connecting experience it continues to be!
Ooh! And team retreats! Great food, great place, great peeps.
And upholding my foodkiller status (closely contested with an interviewer) – weekly team yumyums and learning from fantastic bossman and lady!
NK: If you were driving from Zithulele to Mqanduli with the Minister of Education, what might you say to her?
KJ: Oh wow. By bike or car? If she was up for a bit of pillioning, the convo may be restricted to a few directions from the driver about holding on. Perhaps if by car, it would be best to keep the convo light – maybe we could pick out a teacher training college or accommodation site between here and Kwaaiman… Her thoughts on mother tongue and additive language learning and maybe a chat about languages available to Grade 12s exams would be nice to amble through. Either way, I reckon it’d be a pretty interesting 45 minute drive. At Mqanduli, I’d ask her to pencil into her diary her return visit date.
NK: What advice would you give to any South African adults that would like to impact education in South Africa for good?
KJ: Ah, don’t like giving advice. I have never learnt as much about education as I’ve learnt in these past 2 years, and if you asked me the same question 2 years ago, I’d say the same thing about the previous years.
NK: Come Kristi… advice please!
KJ: Someone once told me…. (begins mumbling into silence)
KJ: Ok… Do your thing. Find a space where your influence is most impactful and don’t be scared to explore multiple spaces. At the end of the day, if we focus on the kids around us, the rest follows.
NK: Last question – if you could describe your two years at Axium as an igwinya topping, what would it be?
KJ: Yorrrrrr what a question! Hmm, gourmet or gewone. On Saturday, straight up polony at Ekukhuleni was king. Yesterday, melted choc next door was the business. My farewell this evening is ‘Gourmet Gwinya’, so watch this space…
KJ: Are we done yet?
NK: I believe we are. Can you pass me one of those biscuits?
KJ: Ummm… Those are done.