The pursuit of positive difference

Nonkululeko Mabhida – Physical Science Teacher, Grade 8- 12. Ogwini Comprehensive Technical High School. Part of the Inkanyezi Project.

The day teaching chose me

I wanted to go into engineering. I had done a diploma in Electrical Engineering and was working on Design in Engineering when I needed part-time work because of financial constraints. It was then that I found part-time work at Ogwini as a science teacher in 2008. Although this work enabled me to pay my fees and obtain my qualification, you could say that teaching chose me!

It just felt right, and life was more stable. We started seeing real improvements in the performance of learners in science and that’s when I made the decision to stay and make a real positive difference in learners’ lives.

Walking the extra mile with Inkanyezi

I had a realisation early on in my life that learners make it in education through the support of others. When I was a learner, I went through a very difficult period. When I was in Grade 5, my parents went through a divorce and it was very difficult for me. Later, my dad passed away. However, I had teachers who believed in me and supported me and I was able to stick it out through the hard times.

So, I have always gone the extra mile as a teacher and I felt that the Inkanyezi project could add to building my resume personally, as well as add the extra support learners needed. I also managed the process of starting a science club at the school.

I felt that we could benefit from the extra help and support from the project and share it more widely with colleagues from neighbouring schools. The sharing can be culturally and academically enriching for learners and teachers equally.

In the project you get to hear from experts on how to deal with a range of aspects of teaching. The workshops were not only linked to subject content, but also on broader issues such as neuroscience where we looked at how the mind works. Having an understanding of such matters helps in understanding how best to support learners as it gives you a broad overview of various factors that all interlink with teaching.

“The sharing can be culturally and academically enriching for learners and teachers equally.”

Tools of the trade

The presentation on neuroscience was very enlightening and inspiring for me. But there were also other fascinating workshops all aimed at giving us the tools necessary to be the best possible teachers. We had a workshop on various methods of holding learners’ attention, as well as activities designed to assist in enhancing memory.

This made me realise that we may think that better resourced schools have an advantage over poorer schools, but we are actually dealing with similar learners. Learners in wealthy schools may come from families with money, but these parents may seldom be around to support their children. So what I took out of this was that successful teaching is more about how we as teachers support our learners in class, rather than about resources and money.

Personal development

The project is demanding, and because of this I am now studying project management. This will help me in the near term and also allow me to create or manage similar projects in the future. I was also able to use my engineering skills in the Science Club and weaved in science to everyday experiences.

“It is only through having successful teachers that we can achieve excellent learner performance broadly.”

Through the Inkanyezi project, I have been able to share experiences with my peers, even older, more experienced teachers. In my interactions with colleagues, I don’t go in with the attitude of “I know better”, but rather with the attitude of “I want to learn from you”, and then I share some of what I learned through the project and elsewhere.

I am passionate about developing teachers. Because of this I do not see myself teaching in the classroom for very long. I feel I want to be out of the classroom in order to develop teachers. Helping a range of teachers will allow a greater reach to learners who need it most. It is only through having successful teachers that we can achieve excellent learner performance broadly.

About the project

The Inkanyezi Project facilitates the entry and integration of learners with potential from disadvantaged backgrounds into selected high quality public schools that have the capacity to offer quality teaching and learning in Mathematics, Science and English. In addition, these schools have the resources and experience to support the academic experience with life skills and social skills.

The project seeks to increase the number of Black (African, Coloured and Indian) learners who obtain Bachelor passes in the National Senior Certificate examination with quality passes in Mathematics, Science and English. The rationale for the project is that it will provide an opportunity for these learners to follow careers in the Mathematics and Science subject streams at university level. The principle underlying the Project is that of providing access to learners from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. The project is intended to be an intervention rather than a solution to the educational crisis in the country.