Spotlight on: The Paragons

Siphenathi, Siyamthemba, Unathi and Sisamkele next to 'Morrison', the Axium van.
Siphenathi, Siyamthemba, Unathi and Sisamkele next to ‘Morrison’, the Axium van.

The Paragons are a group of four students – two of whom are participants in Axium and Jabulani Rural Health Foundation’s gap year program, Jump Start – who work as study group helpers and student mentors. They travel with us three days a week to study groups, helping learners with Maths, Science and general study tips. They also assist at Ekukhuleni, Axium’s Saturday school program. We interviewed them in the van on the way to study groups last week to find out a little bit more about them.

Editor’s note: Unfortunately only three Paragons were present for the interview. Siphenathi makes his own way to school on Thursdays as he lives close by.

How did you find out about the Jump Start program?

Unathi: For me, I found about the Jump Start program from Mich (Michelle Paxton, co-founder of Axium Education) in February. When I didn’t make it to university Mich mentioned that there is a program that is run by Roger (Roger Galloway) and John (John Young, Jabulani Rural Health Foundation) in Zithulele. They told me if I don’t get university I can apply for the program because it will help me a lot, improving some of my skills. So I did interviews and I became part of the program.

Why did you want to work with Axium?

Siyamthemba: Before, I was an Axium student. I started to attend Ekhukuleni while I was doing Grade 10 and now I’m really interested in working for Axium. It’s where I get more information.
Sisamkele: I was also part of Axium. I was a student with them since 2011. I found Axium very beneficial to learners especially in Maths and Science. So I wanted to join Axium so that I can help others and give them the information that I got from Axium.
Unathi: I could say the same as Siya and Sisa, I want to help the students to get help like I did, but for me personally, because I was not in university I don’t want to relax and just do nothing. So I want something that will remind me to keep working, keep looking at the books and helping the students.

What does the word Paragon mean to you?

Unathi: It means someone who is a good example to other people.

What work do you do as a Paragon?

Siyamthemba: We teach students how to use the notes. We help them to know how to use different things when they are studying, how to use the equipment they have.
Unathi: And also we assist them in Maths and Science with difficult questions, helping them to know how to tackle these questions. We also help them with skills, like if you don’t understand something you have to look in the textbook, or tablet. We are teaching them how to use the equipment that they have so that they can learn themselves.

Sisamkele assisting two Lutubeni students with their Physics.
Sisamkele assisting two Lutubeni students with their Physics.

What is your favourite thing about your work as a Paragon?

Sisamkele: Finding yourself useful to others.

What is the most difficult thing about your work?

Unathi: It is when you find out you actually cannot help a student, because you don’t understand the question. If you don’t understand the question, and the student doesn’t understand and wants you to help…that becomes difficult.
Sisamkele: If a student didn’t understand in class, when the teacher taught them, it makes it difficult for us…because then we have to start afresh from the beginning.
Unathi: And also, when you find out a student is lazy. Then he wants everything. He doesn’t want to work hard…he may find out the question is not that difficult but then he doesn’t try. He always wants the answer.

What is the most important thing you have learned so far this year?

Unathi: For me, the most important thing I have learned is time management. Since I joined Axium, Ruan (Ruan Cilliers, Axium Technical Support and Study Group Coordinator) always told me that you need to always be on time…because…”if you are not on time, then you are wasting my time”.

Sounds like Ruan!

Unathi: Ja!
Siyamthemba: Before I started Jump Start, and working as a Paragon, it was very difficult for me to stand in front of a lot of people and to speak. But since working as a Paragon at study groups, I have more confidence to stand and talk in front of people.

What do you do for fun in Zithulele?

(Sharp intake of breath from Unathi as his eyes widen and he puffs out his cheeks…he shakes his head as he slowly exhales…much laughter from the other paragons. Siyamthemba jumps in while Unathi composes himself)

Siyamthemba: When I have free time, I just go and spend the time with my friends and my siblings and parents. Most of the time I spend it with my parents and I feel very excited to be with them.
Unathi: (still laughing) Um, I don’t know! I don’t play too many games at the moment as I have an injury, but I have been to the gym in the hospital and play some soccer. And also I will be starting frisbee now.

(Ultimate Frisbee is a fiercely competitive game played by many Zithuleleans on Monday and Wednesday nights)

Finally, what do you want to do next year?

Siyamthemba: Actually I want to be a nurse, so I want to study nursing next year. I am very interested in helping people who are unable to help themselves. I am hoping to apply for the Umtombo bursary and study at CPUT.
Unathi: I want to do Civil Engineering. I have already applied at DUT and they have accepted me, but I need to still pay for the application. I have also applied at CPUT for Civil Engineering and then Industrial Engineering as my second choice. I am also finishing my application for NMMU.
Sisamkele: I would like to go back to university and complete by Geology degree.

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