They came from schools without electricity and desks where exams were written in the dark and pupils sometimes wrote standing up. Because their schools lacked science labs, they memorised experiments from textbooks rather than from demonstrations.
As qualified maths and science teachers, they returned last month to their old schools when the school year started. Bongani Msizi completed a three-year teaching qualification at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University last year and has now embarked on a year’s practical teaching at his alma mater, Lungisa High School, in KwaDwesi, Eastern Cape.
“I’ve chosen to become a maths and science teacher because most high-school pupils are struggling with these subjects,” he said.
In 2008 Msizi was one of several grade 12 pupils selected from underprivileged schools across Port Elizabeth to attend a maths and science incubator school run by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Govan Mbeki mathematics development unit. The school employs a technology-based teaching and learning model, shared through a DVD series, in its coverage of the grade 11 and 12 maths and science syllabuses.
Msizi and four other newly qualified maths and science teachers — Xolani Tyiwa, Lelethu Dwane, Luzuko Jama and Yusra Raji — were among the top achievers at the incubator school. All received the state’s Funza Lushaka bursaries to study teaching.
Tyiwa has returned to his old school, Solomon Mahlangu High, in Uitenhage. “The incubator school helped me to keep on at higher- grade level in both maths and science. I succeeded at the end of my matric year, thanks to it.”
Addressing the shortage of teachers problem
He initially wanted to find work straight after matric, but the Funza Lushaka bursary changed his mind. “So many pupils are struggling, mainly because there is a shortage of teachers or the teachers themselves are struggling with the curriculum … I decided I wanted to help.”
Dwane is completing his practical-teaching year at Khumbulani High School in North End, where he used to be a pupil. “Seeing the experiments [at the incubator school] helped us understand and remember them. In grade 11, I got Es for science and maths. But in grade 12, I went up a symbol.”
The Funza Lushaka bursary was a chance for Dwane to follow in the footsteps of an inspiring maths and science teacher who “explained everything in detail”, and he now feels teaching is his calling.
The new teachers will assist in future incubator schools, which are run at various centres in the Eastern Cape and elsewhere in the country, said Professor Werner Olivier, head of the Govan Mbeki mathematics development unit.
“We also plan to use their involvement as part of our ongoing research into the technological teaching model that assisted them,” he said.
Nicky Willemse is a freelance writer contracted by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.