Gcobani Mkuti – Axium Alumnus and Accountant to be

We recently caught up with a very focused and determined Axium alumnus during his university holidays. Give his wise words a read and feel inspired.

 Who is Gcobani Mkuti?
I am from the area of ‘Hole in The Wall’ and matriculated from Dudumayo Senior Secondary School in 2015. I was also one of the Axium learners who attended the Ekukhuleni and Study Group programme from 2013 to 2015. I am now studying accounting at the University of Johannesburg.

(Gcobani didn’t “just” matriculate in 2015 – he received a Bachelor’s pass with 86% for Mathematics and 74% for Physical Science.)

What have you been up to since you matriculated in 2015?
After matric I experienced many challenges regarding study and career options because I didn’t really know which choice was right for me. I decided to take a gap year in 2016 so that I could research my options properly. During my gap year I joined the Jumpstart skills programme (facilitated by Jabulani Rural Health Foundation) in Zithulele, which really helped me a lot. Through this I was able to meet many people like an accountant working here in Zithulele who helped me understand more about what kind of work accountants do. I also visited the hospital to see the practical side of being a doctor.

Were you happy about taking a gap year?
I was not happy at the time but I saw it as a good choice. Most of my friends were beginning their studies at universities and they couldn’t understand why I was taking a gap year.

At Axium we often have learners who pass matric but are not able to get into their choice of study. It is often best for these learners to rewrite a few of their subjects and try to apply again the following year but taking a gap year is not something many people have the choice to do here. Did you feel pressured into getting a job to earn money for your family?
I was also rewriting English matric exam during my gap year. My parents were not happy at all because I was not looking for a job. I think my family is proud of me now. I received a lot of affirmation from my sisters, from my friends and from Craig and Ruan at Axium. This really encouraged me. I met a lot of my school friends who encouraged me and gave me affirmation during grade 10 through Axium at their holiday bootcamp.

Making decisions about what do to after school needs a lot of help and support from teachers and parents. You mentioned affirmation and how it helped you. How do you think teachers could improve the way that they affirm and encourage rural learners?
Yes, affirmation is very important. I think that if teachers could positively encourage learners more. In my experience I have always just been taught how to pass. I have not been taught how to actually study by myself and stand alone. I don’t think we are taught how to think for ourselves, to think out of the box and how to believe in ourselves. Teachers should always tell learners that they are capable and that they can do it.

Is there anything you would like to share with other rural learners that would be helpful to them?
I think it is important to have faith, especially at university during difficult times. They need to believe that they can do it. They need to know that they have more than what they see in themselves.

What are your future plans?
The plans I have at the moment are academic. Academically, I want to complete my degree in accounting but my main goal is to become a chartered accountant.

Are you enjoying life in the city of Johannesburg?
Johannesburg is really nice and I am enjoying it but it is nice to come home after a few months. I didn’t know until I went there that I love nature and being in nature so much. There it is just buildings and artificial things.

What has been the most challenging part of university for you?
At university, when you first go there, you may think that you are confident and have confidence. I thought that I had confidence only to find out that I didn’t really. During my first lecture I was really shocked when my Mathematics lecturer finished four chapters within two hours. I was surprised to see how many learners were in my class; 500! And that wasn’t including the learners who are being lectured in Afrikaans. It was really shocking.
When I told one of the leaders in my residence that I am studying accounting and that I did not do it at school, he asked me a question; “Are you prepared to fail?” I said, “No! I cannot fail. I have never ever failed.” And he was right, it was the truth because I failed my first accounting test. I was so angry and upset after that test, I cried. I felt like I had no hope because my lecturer told us that the second test would be even more difficult. I began to tell myself that I would not allow a piece of paper to tell me that I am a failure.

Things are always more fast-paced in a city which is very different to rural areas where people are generally more relaxed. How has your concept of time changed since you have spent time in a city?
I think that I have realized the importance of managing my time. It is something people do not always get taught in rural areas; how to plan. I have also realized that the main cause of stress for people living in cities is time. Even five minutes is a lot. Planning and sticking to your plans is very important.

What has been helpful for you to improve your planning and time management? It is something we at Axium find very difficult to teach learners.
You will not be able to plan if your mind is full of things. It is very important to empty your mind by writing down everything that is weighing on your mind on a piece of paper. Once I have written it all down there are three things I do; first I find all the things that will take me a short time to finish, just a few minutes, and I do those things immediately. Secondly, I look for the things that are not very important and I see if I could get someone else to help me with these. I also put these aside to complete later because they aren’t so important. Lastly if there are things that are important and are going to take me a longer time to complete, then I write it down on my calendar. My calendar and my piece of paper then become my mind and my mind is empty of stress. I have to check my calendar and piece of every day to make sure that I stick to my planning.

 Gcobani, any closing words?
I would like to say a few words. Firstly, the details matter in everything. In terms of your work and even your personal matters. Secondly, there is a phrase that I use; “If you don’t know and you don’t ask, it is your fault.” So if you don’t know something, you must go and ask someone.

Improving schools through Rural Research

 

Blog piece by Craig Paxton (co-founder of Axium Education)
Photos by Matthew Moon

A significant chunk of Axium’s ‘raison d’etre’ is informed by the fact that we’re convinced that what we do here should be helpful to many… So while on a daily basis we’re motivated to serve the students and people we see in front of us to the best of our ability, we also try to keep in mind that we occupy a privileged position (funded privately, operating outside of the constraints of state education) that comes with it the responsibility to use what we do and learn to contribute more broadly to the issues facing the 40% of schools in South Africa that could be considered rural. This informs how we approach our work.

Our programmes and interventions generally have a very positive feel: there are useful resources; teachers and students generally learn something; they often feel motivated; they sometimes even feel empowered. This is often not the case at many rural schools, where the constraints of the system make it very challenging for adequate resourcing, learning and motivation to exist. As we interact with schools in our area, there is a constant reminder that as positive as our programmes seem to be, they are a drop in the ocean compared to the vast need for quality education in our area and in rural schools more generally. So if we are to address these bigger issues in any meaningful way as an organisation and as a country, developing a well-informed framework for rural school improvement seemed an important step to take.

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Five years ago we* embarked on a research project to do just that. I have had (and in many ways continue to have!) reservations about the usefulness of academic research in the field of education, where so little of the research that is done seems to find its way to improving the practice of teachers and schools. Having said that, if the responses to our presentations to local schools, as well as to officials at District, Provincial and National level, are anything to go by, the findings of this research seem to have some potential to be useful.

Over the next few months I’ll be attempting to answer some of the big questions that the research examined in blog-sized bites**:

  • Why rural schools? And why here?
  • Why do rural schools seem stuck?
  • If you’re thinking about improving rural schools, where should you start?
  • How might we re-envision the role of district support to rural schools?
  • What does a great rural school look like? And how do we get there?

This is not the first education research to come out of Zithulele (and check out the growing health research database developing through our friends at Philani!), nor will it be the last, with Ingrid Mostert starting her PhD this year examining maths teaching in rural Foundation Phase classrooms. Over time we as Axium would like to become a hub*** for rural research that tackles real education problems in a way that helps us better understand the context and actually improves practice… not just here, but in thousands of similar classrooms and schools across the country.

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*While in many ways this research was a solo venture and eventually resulted in my PhD, the effort was certainly a collective one, with input from many of my colleagues at Axium (particularly my wife!) and from teachers and students in the schools we work. My thanks to our board for giving their blessing to this project, and for the graciousness of my colleagues in dealing with my frequent absences and constraints on my time.

**If you’re too excited to wait, check out the six-page summary here.

***If you’re based at a university, or are considering embarking on your own rural research journey, do contact craig@axiumeducation.org for ways in which we can work together.

Meet the Team – Ingrid Mostert

At the beginning of 2017, after many years of wishing that I could move back to the Eastern Cape (and particularly to the former Transkei region), I relocated to Zithulele to work for Axium Education. In May of 2016 I had met with Craig and discovered that two of the areas that Axium wanted to grow in – numeracy in the foundation phase and teacher networks – were two of the areas that I was interested in and had experience with. And so my journey with Axium began.

As the numeracy coordinator my work is divided between supporting the community readers (the Nobalisa) in thinking of creative ways to incorporate numeracy into their after school reading clubs as well as supporting foundation phase teachers in two local schools to explore alternative Mathematics teaching approaches. Although I have experience supporting Mathematics teachers in schools, when I started at the beginning of the year I had no experience in teaching or working in rural schools. This means that a large portion of my time has been spent observing teaching, and talking to teachers and the Nobalisa in order to start understanding some of the complexities of working in a rural school. From my perspective, the biggest barrier to learning is the large class sizes. The classes I spend time in range from 67 to 107 learners – in one class, with one teacher. It isn’t possible to provide 7-year-old children with the kind of individual attention and differentiated support that is required when there are more than 100 learners in a class.

And yet there are ways to engage a large group of learners and to start laying the foundations necessary for learning mathematics in later years. Many of the strategies that seem to be showing promise have been adapted from games played at the after school mathematics clubs I have worked in previously. While many of these games can be played by two learners without the involvement of a teacher, what has worked well both in schools and at the reading clubs is to adapt the games slightly so that they are played by the whole group or by two learners, with the whole group watching. Because another challenge of teaching in a rural school is a lack of resources, the games that we have been experimenting with require no or very few resources – learners use their hands and fingers, bottle tops or sometimes scrap paper.

Practicing addition and subtraction with playing cards

In order for the support that the teachers are receiving to be sustainable in an under-resourced context, we have been using only things available in the schools to make resources with the teachers, such as poster paper and permanent markers. Something as simple as a 1 to 100 number chart is a powerful tool to introduce the 10 base structure of the number system we use and to help them count not only in 1s but also in 10s, starting at any number.

 Home-made cards of the isiXhosa names of numbers and number chart         

Try this challenge: If the numbers from 1 to 100 are arranged on a 10 x 10 grid, what numbers are to the left, right, above and below the number 65?

Another challenge faced by schools is not knowing how to use the resources that they do have – for example manipulatives or even the laptops that all foundation phase teachers in the province have been provided with. So another way of supporting teachers has been to help them use what they already have.

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Mrs Didi, the foundation phase HOD at Mhlahlane Junior School, learning how to use a counting frame and colour puzzle.

While schools have few resources and large class sizes, the after school reading clubs run by the Nobalisas are smaller and better resourced. This means that games involving cards can be played. One game in particular, Top Ten, is ideal for the clubs as it is already played by adults in the community and because learners have to find pairs of numbers that add to 10 – a very important skill for doing calculations. Other games that are played at reading clubs to support numeracy are UNO and snakes and ladders as well as the low resource games played in schools. Because the Nobalisas focus primarily on isiXhosa literacy, they have identified songs and stories that include numbers and counting which can be used both during their work in schools and in reading clubs.

FullSizeRender 4More than 700 bottle tops collected by the Grade 2 class at Mhlahlane Junior School.

As an organization we still have a lot to learn about supporting teachers in teaching Mathematics to foundation phase learners in large classes where the language of learning and teaching is isiXhosa. We have, however, started on this journey, a journey that we believe is hugely important if we are to achieve our goal of raising student achievement.

Top Matriculant of 2016 – Zuko Sogoni

Zuko Sogoni matriculated from Dudumayo Senior Secondary school at the end of 2016 with seven distinctions. He was the first student from the area to do so – ever! His outstanding results include 91% for Mathematics and 99% for Physical Science. Zuko was an immensely committed member of our Ekukhuleni programme throughout his Grade 10 to 12 years, and was active in promoting a vibrant study group culture among his peers. He is now on a full scholarship through the Rural Education Access Programme (REAP) and studying Actuarial Science at the University Cape Town.

We recently caught up with Zuko on life at the UCT and the secrets to his success…

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Zuko, how’s life as a university student?

Life here is good and on the other hand it’s not as good. I have social freedom now so I can do whatever I want and whenever I want to. That sounds great but actually, it also means I am my responsibility now. At the moment I’m coping but varsity is truly overwhelming.

What have you found easy? What has been challenging?

Studying and understanding by myself is what I find easy. I think this is because even during high school I was largely independent of my teachers. I’ve realised that many people here find studying by themselves difficult and unfortunately lectures don’t teach but only facilitate learning and assist in keeping with the curriculum.

Zuko, you did tremendously well at school. What were some of the secrets to your success?

Working hard and consistently. Pre-studying. I did as many past papers as I could. For Mathematics and Physical Sciences it’s good to do at least six papers each.

 

 

Dudumayo, the Rural Outlier

Dudumayo Senior Secondary school has managed to improve its matric (grade 12) pass rate from 53.3% in 2015 to 83.89% in 2016, a stunning feat for a school located in South Africa’s rural Eastern Cape. Axium Education’s Gené McAravey spoke to Dudumayo principal Nkosivumile Kwezi about what strategies the school has been employing to achieve such a drastic turnaround.

Situated within the rural Eastern Cape, more than an hour’s drive from the closest urban area and approximately two hour’s drive away from former president Nelson Mandela’s rural home of Qunu, lies Dudumayo Senior Secondary School. Dudumayo, serving approximately 1400 learners from Grades 10 to 12, faces all the typical challenges plaguing rural government schools. These obstacles include limited school infrastructure and resources, teachers who commute long distances daily, students living in households surviving on government grants and massive school overcrowding. Despite these, the school’s leadership and learners are determined to rise above the typically dark predictions for rural learner achievement. Now, with a more than 30% increase in Dudumayo’s matric pass rate from 2015 to 2016, it looks like these ambitions are becoming a reality.

Mr Nkosivumile Kwezi, who was appointed to his post at Dudumayo in February of 2016, is serving both as the school’s principal and as its Science teacher. As a former rural learner himself from the Bizana community in the Eastern Cape, he is passionate about helping rural learners overcome the odds to achieve success. When asked why he chose to work at Dudumayo, he had the following to say:

“So before I came here to Dudumayo I always had that passion [for rural education]. Because when I was listening to people, especially people who are working in rural areas they always said to me ‘Look, the reason why you are producing good results is because you are in town. Go to rural areas, you will see the reality.’”

Mr Kwezi’s previous experience includes a stint as the vice-principal of Zingisa Comprehensive High School as well as a teaching post at St John’s College, both situated in urban Mthatha.

“And I said, ‘You are lying! You are lying. Learners who normally excel in town are learners who are from deep rural areas,’” he explains. “I wanted to show them that now, even if the school is just under a tree, if there is a teacher, a teacher is the best resource. That school can perform very well.”

Since starting at Dudumayo, Mr Kwezi has implemented a number of programs to assist his learners. These include revision sessions in the mornings starting before 6am and running until 7.30am as well as supervised self-study in the evenings from 6pm until 10pm for Matric learners, Mondays through Thursdays. There are also compulsory, hour-long study sessions for grades ten and eleven after lessons have finished for the day. In addition, the staff hold classes on Saturdays on a rotating basis to make sure they have adequate time to cover the syllabus thoroughly.

When asked how the learners cope with such a strenuous academic schedule, Mr Kwezi smiles and responds, “You know, just have a visit, maybe in the morning, you will see them. I find them here in the morning. They are so motivated, hayi. They come running like anything…saying Nobakunzima. We will win. Even if it’s difficult, we will win…Really! The spirit that is in our children, it’s quite amazing.”

Mr Kwezi’s own attitude towards teaching has also played a role in this regard. He believes that encouraging and motivating learners is key, both inside and outside the classroom. He reports that he often begins his interactions with the learners by sharing a few inspiring words with them.

“Just have two or three words. ‘Hey good people, remember, hard work drives you to be a better person tomorrow. There is nothing that you can get without working hard. Hard work, the mix of determination and perseverance, that’s what brings about success. You need to share just one motivational word with them and then you get to the business. You teach them, you give them examples, give them class activities, you give them homework.”

After that, he explains, it’s about spending time with each learner, nurturing a strong relationship with them and keeping their spirits up. “Talk to them on a continuous basis, that ‘Look, you’ll do it,’” he says. “Even if a learner gets two marks or three marks in a test say, ‘You know, the reason why you are getting two or three clearly indicates that you have intelligence of doing well in this, so make sure that you triple these three marks in the next test.’ Even the very slow learner…will work hard now, not to disappoint you, you see? So that’s the system that I’ve been using.”

Asked how he finds time to engage with learners on top of his administrative duties as principal and his full teaching load, he shrugs and says simply, “If you are a teacher, ma’am, you know, you sacrifice. You forfeit something in order to get something.”

“I normally arrive here at quarter-to- six in the morning and I will be leaving at ten. And [tomorrow] morning I’ll be here at quarter-to- six. That’s a lot of sacrifice,” he explains. In the early mornings Mr Kwezi is joined by dedicated fellow staff members; Deputy Principals Ms Mdaka and Mr Ludidi as well as Head of Department Mr Hlanganyana. Mr Kwezi, like the rest of his staff, resides in Mthatha, an hour away. He makes the long drive on roads peppered with potholes and roaming livestock, in often rainy and misty conditions, twice daily.

“So you’ll find that now, for example, today I’m going to complete the organic chemistry. I’m going to give them a test, I’m going to mark that test, I’m going to give it back to them before I even go home. Can you see that, by then, all other educators are at home, you know, doing all their things, ma’am? You need to make time. If you can’t find time you need to make time by yourself. You just sacrifice, just for the benefit of an African child… Because I know that I’m a principal and it ends there but then I cannot destroy the future of the little children…I have to work [harder] so that at least they become what they want. I mustn’t be a stumbling block to their progress.”

Despite Mr Kwezi’s commitment and the efforts of his students, the challenges they face remain daunting. He describes visiting the cottages of his learners to collect them when they are late, only to find them sleeping on the floor with scarcely a blanket to cover them.

“This area is really, really, really overwhelmed by poverty, I’m telling you…We do not focus onto that because definitely, psychologically, it will traumatise us, but we just pretend as if things are normal and we normally assist some of the learners. You will find that some learners they do not have parents…Some of them, we really adopted them as educators. For example, even myself, there are learners that I am currently responsible for the payment of fees, you know, uniform, etc.”

He shakes his head sadly “There are so many, you know, but then we normally communicate with [the department of] social development…We assist the with food parcels and all that. But you could see that this is not sustainable for a very long time.”

Mr Kwezi’s greatest ambition for Dudumayo, beyond achieving a 100% pass rate in this year’s matric examinations, is to build a hostel for the school. “If we can have a hostel…everybody will eat the same food, everybody will stay in the same place, everybody will sleep in the same bed,” he explains.

The excitement in his voice is apparent as he expands on his vision. “If we can get a hostel with teacher’s cottage, if you want to sleep here, you can stay here…you are not rushing anywhere. You wake up in the morning with learners, ‘Come on, it’s time, good people, let us go back to school,’ and everybody runs to school,” he sketches out, laughter in his voice.

Because of large commuting distances, many learners in their matric year move into government funded RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) housing and cottages located near the school. This comes with its own set of dangers, however. Theft, house breaking and even students who get raped are tragically common occurrences, explains Mr Kwezi.

“If we have a hostel here, you can’t talk about that anymore. You will never ever talk about those things because the school will be fenced, there will be security, there will be matrons, there will be everybody. So learners will be safe.”

Mr Kwezi’s other ambitions include increasing the number of Bachelors passes as well as the number of students with distinctions. The school, who’s classes for Matrics began on the 3 rd of January, appears to be well on its way to achieving these goals, along with a 100% pass rate. We at Axium Education wish the learners and staff all the best for the rest of this academic year. Under the capable leadership of Mr Kwezi, and if hard work has anything to do it, we are expecting promising results from Dudumayo’s Grade 12 class of 2017!

School Management Team Retreat March 2017

Axium’s work with teachers and school leaders aims to encourage and build capacity in these key drivers of change in schools. The annual Senior Management Team (SMT) Retreat is an opportunity for school leaders from the Siyahluma Sisonke Sakhingomso (SSS) Network of schools to gather at an offsite venue for team building, sharing and collaborative problem solving.

It had been 15 months since our last SMT Retreat and the excitement was palpable in the weeks leading up to the event, with many teachers contacting us to make sure it was still happening! This was the 5th of these annual retreats and we used the occasion to invite principals from the Manyano Network – a group of schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, who had helped us launch our own network of schools at the very first SMT Retreat in 2012 – to return and check in on progress. Usually held in December, the long gap between events was as a result of requests from schools to reschedule to the beginning of the year in order to allow more effective follow up.

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The theme of the weekend was “Effective Leadership”, building on the first of the “5 Essential Supports” for school improvement – a framework introduced to schools at the last event. Schools had identified three main areas of focus: effective leadership for order and control; effective leadership for curriculum management; and, effective leaders taking responsibility (the first of Covey’s Seven Habits). Discussions were impassioned and inspiring, while possibly lacking the focus and practical application that we had hoped for in our planning – something we’re musing over how to remedy for future events. In particular, the Manyano team left us with a strong challenge about our role in creating opportunities for the children we serve. The 29 teachers seemed to leave the weekend encouraged and motivated, and we hope this will bear fruit at the nine schools they represent.

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Probably the most encouraging outcome of the weekend was the election of a very strong steering committee for the SSS Network, including several key principals and teachers – the “movers and shakers” if you like – in our community of schools. Watch this space for an update on developing a programme of action for the network, as this steering group meets early in the new term…

Senior School 2016 Results

Axium’s Ekukhuleni programme offers Mathematics, Science and English support to 30 Grade 12 learners selected from 6 Senior Secondary Schools in the area. Support is provided through extra tuition on Saturdays and during holiday ‘boot camps’ as well as weekday study group facilitation. Here’s what the 2016 Grade 12’s achieved, and what our trajectory looks like so far…

Axium Education aims to consistently improve Ekukhuleni student performance and tertiary placement. Our target is to achieve a 100% Bachelor pass rate (with Mathematics and Science) and for all 30 matric learners to move on to tertiary education. During 2016 we continued to make good progress towards this target. On a number of measures, our Ekukhuleni Class of 2016 is the best yet!

Measure 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Target
# of Ekukhuleni Grade 12 students 26 23 28 30 28 30
# of M&S Bachelor’s passes (%) 4 (15%) 12 (52) 14 (50) 17 (57) 21 (75) 100 %
# of passes (%) 16 (61%) 21 (91) 22 (79) 25 (83) 27 (96) 100 %
# of students with maths, physical science and English above 50 % (%) 9 (39) 8 (29) 12 (40) 15 (54) 100 %
# accessed tertiary* (%) 6 (23%) 12 (52) 20 (71) 14(47) 15 (54) 100 %
# Tertiary ‘Full Ride’** (%) 2 (8%) 3 (13) 7 (25) 5 (17) 9 (32) 75 %
% M&S Bachelor’s passes of ALL students at our partner schools 1% 2% 7% 9% 10% 5%/yr increase

Some individual highlights of 2016:

  • Zuko Sogoni achieved seven distinctions including 99% for Physical Science. He was awarded a full scholarship to study Actuarial Science at UCT and is the first learner from schools in this area to achieve a “full house” of distinctions.
  • Nine of our Ekukhuleni Grade 12’s have full tertiary funding through SAICA, Thuthuka, REAP or Umthombo Youth Development.

The graphs below illustrates the consistent growth of the programme across a number of metrics.

Ekukhuleni Pass Rate 2016

 

Maths & Science Bachelors Passes (Ekuk) 2016

 

Tertiary Full Ride 2016

 

*Given improved Grade 12 results in 2015 and 2016 we were naturally disappointed with our tertiary placement rate, compared to 2014. This is mainly due to the lack of success applying to TSiBA, where previously many of our students accessed and experienced significant success.

**’Full Ride’ = Fully funded bursary/scholarship

 

 

Meet the Team – Sinethemba Beja

Who is Sinethemba Beja?

I am someone who is ambitious but who can also be vulnerable and weak. That would describe me as a woman. As I had told you before; I am like a tree in that I believe that life has its ups and downs. Each and everyone of us experiences our own dry seasons and that, as women, we should stand together during these times.

I am also someone who believes in women taking action. Despite your age, your background, where you come from and your level of education, I believe that every woman has an ability to be who she wants to be.

How did you end up working for Axium Education?

I was previously working at Zithulele Hospital, which is close to Axium Education so I could see everything that Axium was busy doing. A friend of mine told me that they were hiring and, seeing the impact they were having on the community and on the youth of Mqanduli, I was so interested in being part of a team that believes in the future of Zithulele.

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What is your role at Axium now that you are here?

I am working as an administrator.

A crazy job.

Very.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job thus far?

The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to work with many different people who are, most of the time, all under pressure and demanding stuff.

So you like to relieve our pressure?

Kind-of. But what is really making it rewarding for me is that I feel I am actually helping even if I am not on the front row and going to schools myself. I am in the background doing something small but important.

What has been the most challenging part of your job thus far?

Sometimes I have to work with lots of stationary and equipment that gets lost and misplaced easily. I expect to find things in one team only to find that it’s not there anymore. I am still new and I’m still learning.

What are some of your own personal goals for your future?

I want to study further but the thing I feel most passionate about is ministry. I feel that there is a huge need for role models in my community and for people who are willing to stand up and do something like mentoring young people in different forms. I believe that God has given us all something; it doesn’t matter how big and how small it is. What is important is the way that you use it. I feel strongly about trying to build up people motivating them to grow into their potentials.

You are clearly very passionate about empowering young women and interested in their roles in society. What words of encouragement would you give a young female teenager from a rural community?

I will speak from my own personal experience. When I was growing up many people told me who I was and who I was going to be. People define you but their definition for you doesn’t matter. What really matters is who God says you are. What people say doesn’t define you. What your friends are doesn’t define you. Your mistakes don’t determine your destination. So I would encourage and motivate young women not to lean on other people’s views about their lives but to lean on God. To know that they can do it.

Farewell to ‘Ta Sbu’ – Science Master

Sibusiso Qwesha, aka. ‘Ta Sbu’, refuses to refer to himself as a ‘teacher’. This ‘tutor’ places great value on building meaningful relationships with his learners. They will surely miss him.

 

How long have you been working with Axium?

I’ve been with Axium since 2015, so it’s 2 years now.

What made you decide to come and work for Axium?

A friend of mine, who I studied with at varsity, told me about this wonderful opportunity with Axium. I always wanted to work in the Eastern Cape, specifically in a rural area. It all started at varsity when I tutored chemistry and I noticed that some students experienced difficulties with understanding content. Growing up in the villages myself, I could relate to some of the challenges they faced at university.

What has your role at Axium been?

I taught Physical Science mainly to the Grade 10’s and Grade 11’s.

 What has been the most challenging part of your work at Axium?

English is the first additional language of the learners we work with and there are limited resources, like textbooks, so it challenging for them to understand Scientific concepts. Axium facilitates ‘Teacher Networks’ during which teachers from different schools meet up to discuss content. It has been a challenge to get them in one room for these meetings due to their busy schedules.

Looking back at who Sibusiso was before his time with Axium, how have you changed the most as a person?

When I first came to Axium I had no teaching experience. I worked with Craig, my Boss and Mentor, who has been in teaching for years. I learnt a lot from him. Now I can safely say that I’m in a learning process to becoming a better teacher one day. I also have great relationships with the teachers and students we work with.

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Even though you have been the teacher and tutor here at Axium, what have your learners taught you?

I learnt a lot from them but I will mention only a few; with all the challenges and difficulties our learners face but they still manage to remain positive, enthusiastic, focused and dedicated. They all came from different schools but they could easily work together. Everyone learns differently, so it is important for me to approach a lesson from different perspectives, to be able to transfer knowledge in ways that can be received properly. This doesn’t only make me a better teacher but help students to learn more effectively.

In terms of the way that Axium operates, what would you change or improve for 2017?

I wouldn’t say I’d change anything; rather I would improve on community involvement and strengthen our relationships with the teachers so they can remain motivated.

Having grown up in a rural part of the Eastern Cape yourself, what advice would you give other young NGO’s operating in rural areas of South Africa?

Know the community in which your NGO operates. Learn about their culture and create more opportunities, specifically for the youth, so they can stay away from crime.

What have you found the most rewarding or enjoyable part of your job at Axium?

Working with people, including Axium staff, who are from different backgrounds. Getting to know the teachers and learners I worked with was most enjoyable part of my job.

Would you encourage other people to come and teach with Axium? Why?

Of course! Axium is doing a great job in equipping learners with knowledge and assisting them in getting into university. I must say that one should be passionate about teaching.

What does 2017 have in store for ‘Teacher’ Sibusiso Qwesha?

I will be completing my Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) while teaching Physical Science through a learnership at Pinelands High School in Cape Town.

 

 

A Long Walk to Leadership

The Masakhane Grade 8 class of 2016 went on our first Masakhane leadership camp. We’re excited about their ideas, potential, motivation and capability to take student leadership of Masakhane to the next level in 2017. Here’s what they had to say about the experience…

 

The Leadership Camp was at Hole in the Wall in Pioneer House.  On Friday, we left Zithulele in the morning to walk to Hole in the Wall. We had to cross the river. The water was too high. Thimna was crying, but we helped each other to cross. We were happy to cross. We went to the sea and then we made boats as groups. They taught us that when we do something together, we do it better. We went in the sea and we swam. It was very nice. The waves were too cool!

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We had some leadership lessons during the camp. The first lesson was about what habits are. After discussing that, everyone drew pictures of themselves showing what they were good at and what their talents were. After that, in lesson two, they drew a circle, and around it they wrote down things they do every day, like going to school. In the centre they wrote the most important thing they do. A great activity was writing down traits about being a leader, starting each line with the letters that spell the word LEADERSHIP.

In the evening, we ate dinner. It was rice and meat. It was very delicious. Then we played the chocolate game with knives and forks. The game was nice. We loved it and we were so happy! Then we watched the movie of Cinderella. We enjoyed watching the part where Cinderella was going to marry the prince. Then we went to sleep. Well some went to sleep at midnight, and some did not sleep at all! We were too excited to sleep. We were very happy to be at Hole in the Wall – we wanted to see everything.

On Saturday, we woke up in the morning. After we ate some yummy breakfast, we had more lessons about leadership. Topics we covered were how to be a good leader; what are things all leaders should do; what are your personal talents and enjoyments; what do you do in your life and what is the centre of it. And what are you going to do when you lead. Last of all, we discussed what will make Masakhane fun next year. There were also some drop-outs at Masakhane this year, so we discussed how to prevent that.

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After all that thinking, we went to the sea and then we ate lunch. After that we went to the swimming pool at Hole in the Wall Hotel. We drank milkshakes. They were delicious – strawberry and chocolate flavour. We also went shopping at the shop there. When we got back to Pioneer House, it was time to go. So we started the long walk back to Zithulele. We crossed two rivers. But this time it was easier. By the time we reached the end, it felt like a long walk to leadership. We are excited about being leaders.

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