Education

Breaking the Shackles

Eric Mubai

Despite all the odds being stacked against me, I managed to grow into a shining star, says a learner from Gauteng.

I, and my three siblings, was raised by a single mother. I am now 18 years old, the youngest in the family, and have just completed matric. We live in a five-roomed RDP house, right in the middle of the poverty-stricken and crime-ridden Diepsloot.

Even under such circumstances I knew that an education was important to get me out my situation.

I started and completed my schooling in Diepsloot.

Bad conditions in school
The conditions at my school were dreadful and certainly not
conducive to learning. This contributed largely to poor pupil performance.

At times teacher morale would get low but things got worse when I was doing grade 10 because we did not receive textbooks. We also did not have a maths teacher. We were left to fend for ourselves.

I got a distinction in maths
Fortunately for me, I was always curious and had an enormous passion for maths. I had got myself a copy of a grade 12 maths book, which I would read and start to solve some of the problems on my own and this gave me a head start. In that year, most pupils failed maths dismally but I managed to get a distinction.

My foundation for maths was laid by Mr Mogodi in grade eight. Although I was good at maths I did not do particularly well in algebra but with his help I later mastered it.

Mr Mogodi heightened my understanding, love and appreciation of all aspects of maths.

Another teacher who deserves mentioning is Mr Nxumalo who taught me maths in grade 11. He displayed the same passion and enthusiasm for maths and became my pillar of strength. He played a pivotal role in sharpening my love of the subject.

He was selfless and always willing to go an extra mile to help us. He did not mind sacrificing his weekends or public holidays just so that he could assist and guide us. Because of these two teachers’ commitment, I always came up tops in all the school-organised maths competitions and this help built my confidence even more.

My secret to success
My secret in doing better in maths is based on practice and more
practice. I spent most of the time solving complex maths questions and, where possible, I even set myself difficult questions to solve.

I was also more willing to help other pupils who struggled
with some sections of maths, and this helped me immensely because, in the process, I also learnt quite a lot.

I still recall when I was thrown into the deep end during the 2010 teachers’ strike. The majority of the grade 12 pupils were stranded and there were a few weeks to go before they would sit for their final examinations. I did not hesitate to lend a hand and most of them were grateful for my assistance because they did well.

Believe in yourself
So when it was the time for me to write my examination it felt like it was a continuation of what I had always been doing. But I must hasten to add that writing the final exams was not a walk in the park.

There was pressure and anxiety that one had to wrestle with but all I had to do was to believe in myself. I stuck to study methods and strategies that worked well for me during the course of the year.

I dedicate my achievements to my hard work, my maths teachers, as well as my family—especially my mother, who was always there to provide moral support.

Eric Mubai was a grade 12 pupil at the Itirele-Zenzele Comprehensive High School in Diepsloot, north of Gauteng. He got distinctions in five subjects.

Originally published in: The Teacher

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