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Graduates help teach South Africa

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
For two young men, the idea of climbing the corporate ladder after graduating held little appeal.

Instead they opted to give back to society by becoming teachers at rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

Solomzi Joki, 23, holds a Bachelor of Science degree specialising in chemistry, while Fortune Sibiya, 22, also has a science degree specialising in applied mathematics. Both obtained their qualifications from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The youngsters are part of a programme run by an organisation called Teach SA, which places university graduates in classrooms in disadvantaged schools for two years. The graduates teach mathematics, physical science and languages.

According to Richard Masemola, Executive Director and co-founder of Teach South Africa, the organisation aims to address the skills shortage in teaching and improve the quality of education across the country.

Teaching mathematics and physical science

Joki is a physical science teacher at eMthulasizwe High School in the rural village of KwaMyeki in Mtubatuba in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

He teaches physical science, mathematics, life science and computer literacy to Grade 8 and 11 learners.

He also conducts tutorials for matrics and does revision to help prepare them for exams.

Joki said he decided to give back to the community by teaching because he understands the pain of being a high school learner and not having a life science educator.

“I wanted to teach science because there aren’t enough science educators in the country. When I was in Grade 11, my life science studies suffered because we did not have a teacher.”

For Joki, being an educator is also about sharing his knowledge with his pupils.

“I thought I could give learners a different and exciting version of science, especially because there are misconceptions that physical science and mathematics are difficult.”

Sibiya, who teaches Grade 12 mathematics at Asiphikelele High School in Mtubatuba, decided to teach because of his passion for mathematics and his ability to simplify mathematics problems.

“This is an opportunity for me to help young people who are not too fond of mathematics and try to change their mindset about the subject. I also wanted to see more young people such as myself matriculating and pursuing careers in science and maths-related fields.

“Another thing is that there is a serious shortage of mathematics teachers and I want to be the part of the solution.”

Both Joki and Sibiya said they love what they do because they are learning about young people.

“I enjoy teaching young people. They are so alive, they enjoy being at school and they still dream about endless opportunities even though they are not exposed to much,” said Joki.

They add that being an educator is not child’s play.

“The amount of preparation for lessons and the workload is heavy. Being in this programme has taught me to respect educators,” adds Joki.

Addressing the teacher shortage

The Department of Basic Education (DBE), through the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme, is working hard to address the shortage of teachers in South Africa.

According to Education Management Information Systems lists compiled by the DBE, in 2014 there were over 12 million learners in 24 060 public schools being taught by just over 390 000 educators.

Funza Lushaka aims to attract academically deserving and suitable South African students to become competent teachers in identified priority, scarce skill subjects and phases.

Basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said organisations such as Teach South Africa assist in supporting the aims of the department in ensuring that teaching happens and that relevant support services are made available.

“This is in accordance with the department’s ambitions of achieving quality learning and teaching.”

Mhlanga said the DBE received more than 70 000 applications during the 2014/2015 application period for the bursary scheme.

Bursaries were awarded to 13 972 applicants in 2015.

“The department has also developed the National Recruitment Database which registers any professionally qualified South African educator seeking employment.”

The database is easily accessible from anywhere in the country. Principals and School Governing Bodies are able to quickly identify appropriately qualified educators who meet the criteria for the post they are trying to fill.

As for Joki and Sibiya, the future looks bright for them as they plan to stay in education for a while.

“I am currently enrolled for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Unisa. It’s part of our contract at Teach South Africa that we obtain this. The South African Council for Educators gives us a licence to teach for one year while obtaining this certificate.

“I want to stay in teaching for another two years once my contract expires. After that, I would like to do my honours in pharmacology.”

Sibiya said he wants to do his honours in Computing and Financial Management because he dreams of being a qualitative analyst one day.

For more information on:

Teach South Africa, call 082 383 6687 or visit: www.teachsouthafrica.org

Funza Lushaka, call 0800 202 933 or visit: www.funzalushaka.doe.gov.za