Adventures of a School Teacher

By Dani Kreusch

Sarah and some of "her" kids from the Lebone Centre. Photo: Dani Kreusch

Sarah and some of “her” kids from the Lebone Centre. Photo: Dani Kreusch

As soon as she arrives for work the children drop from trees, jungle gyms and swings to encircle her in a group hug. Sarah Williams, at twenty six, is already a mom to the children who form part of the Lebone Centre group, breaking off mid-enthusiastic greeting to tell the boys to right-side the jungle gym they’d toppled to gain extra height.

“That’s not safe. Let’s make good choices, now,” she chides gently as she ties a newly-fallen ribbon back into a little girl’s hair. Continue reading

Q&A with forthcoming PGCE student, Roxanne Daniels

Roxanne Daniels is currently a Journalism and Media Studies student who plans to do her PGCE at Rhodes University next year. Her passion for education and young children is evident in her vibrant tone of writing in the articles that she has produced for Ukufunda and the smiles on the photos of learners of different Grahamstown schools that she has visited.

Q: Please explain why you want to do PGCE next year and what you’re looking forward to after finishing your studies.

A: I’d like to do a PGCE as I want to be able to teach young people about the subjects I am passionate about. I feel that through sharing my passion, I can positively help shape how school children see the world and how they can be the best that they can be. I look forward to starting a new journey after my studies, one that I feel completely unprepared for, but excited about!

Q: If you were to go back to high school, which grade would you go back to and why?

A: I would go back to grade 11. It seemed to be the year that I most enjoyed being at school. Matric arrived and everyone around me was stressed about exams and the matric farewell. Grade 11 was hard work, but the down time with friends was great. I loved my grade 11 dance and stayed until the very end, dancing to the best music (songs from musicals and Michael Bublé of course). We named ourselves the ‘5-minute-club’; the only few that stayed till the dance was officially over.

Q: What was your least favourite subject at high school and why?

History. Today I love going to museums and guided tours, learning about the history of a place or person. At school though, doing history seemed so boxed and limited and terribly sad.

Q: How can you describe your favourite high school teacher?

A lovely woman who was given respect as soon as she entered the room – the air about the way she held herself commanded it. She was firm and took no nonsense, but taught excellently – pushing our limits while wanting to extend her own, by learning from us too. She wanted her students to exceed and it didn’t matter if we achieved more than what she ever could; it made her happy when we did that. She was my matric drama teacher, a teacher I would much like to emulate when I teach.

Q: Please describe a senior at your school that you looked up to

My sister. She worked incredibly hard and was very disciplined. She always made time for other things though and was the president of the Interact Club, always thinking of how she could serve others. She led quietly and by example, not forcing her way in. I looked up to her for her  strong stand in our faith in Christ (and still do). It became her priority, to live with Christ as her King – and that is the most important thing to me.

Q: Explain what made you and your crew at school unique from the other crews/groups of friends.

Anything goes! We were a group of misfits…sort of. Within my group of friends, I was particularly close to two girls. The three of us were so totally different from each other – it really is a wonder that we were such good friends, having sleep overs, photoshoots, baking days or lazy days together.

 

 

First Rand CEO inspires students

By Roxanne Daniels

First Rand Ltd CEO (right) Sizwe Nxasana being welcomed to Rhodes by Black Management Forum Student Chapter provincial treasurer.  Photo: Roxanne Daniels

First Rand Ltd CEO (right) Sizwe Nxasana being welcomed to Rhodes by Black Management Forum Student Chapter provincial treasurer. Photo: Roxanne Daniels

Discipline and hard work are the secrets to success for First Rand CEO Sizwe Nxasana. He shared a bit of his story and views to Rhodes University students at the invitation of the student chapter of the Black Management Forum a few weeks ago. Continue reading

Deaf educator joyfully shares the difficulties he faces

By Roxanne Daniels

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Mfundo Lebaka, a Deaf educator, came to Rhodes University and gave a presentation for Disability Week on 14 May. Asanda Katshwa interpreted his South African Sign Language (SASL) at the well-attended event highlighting the difficulty in accessing education as a deaf person. Continue reading

Uncle Charles: The teacher everyone wants to be around

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Charlie being his usual jovial self. Photo Credit: Sourced

By Loyiso Gxothiwe

“Uncle Charles. Uncle Charles!” shouts a voice from a crowd huddled by a wide door, making their way out of church. The Uncle Charles in question is a lively figure surrounded by a group almost as spirited as him. The group, consisting of what appears to be University students and other members of the church, is exchanging testimonies and stories next to a foyer by the passage. Charlie is telling a story about his week at work and exchanging a few jokes with the group. Upon hearing and spotting the person that was calling him now making his way towards the group, he turns his head, smiles and nods in an acknowledging manner and greets his friend without pausing his story. Continue reading

The 411 on GHT Librarians

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By Sihle Jack

Grahamstown Library (Hill Street)

June Kockott  

Q:  What is your favourite children’s book?

A: Peter Pan was my favourite when I was a kid but I would say The Snow Goose or Where the Wild Things Are  is my all-time favourite children’s book.

Q: Why should children visit the library?

A: It will put them in touch with lots of books. [From an adult’s perspective books are] good for children’s development. If children read at an early age then they become more successful in school.

Q: What’s fun for children to do at library?

A: Audio book reading, where the children can listen to the auditory version of the book as well as read the text. There is also a book club, which is a lot of fun.

Q: What is your favourite memory at the library?

A: There are too many good memories to choose from. One of them would have to be little children discovering the beauty of books and reading. Another memory is of Emily Amner, who would read a ton of books and then come back and tell me about them with much excitement. Another special memory would have to be of the plus or minus six street kids who would come to the library and draw pictures which they would demand I look at. Being given the name Khanyisa (Khanyisa means to bring light) by the children who visit the library is also another memory I cherish dearly.

Q: What did you have planned for National Library Week?

A: We planned to increase membership and invite children from different schools over to the library. We had our normal reading club and a celebration on 19 March. We also had a volunteering Rhodes student come in and read to the kids.

Q: Something interesting about you? Continue reading

With freedom comes hope

By Lesedi NtuliMattew

1.) How did you get involved in education?

I really enjoyed my grade school education. My mother worked as an occupational therapist, and my father worked with adults who had disabilities, so their professions helping people must have rubbed off as well, though I didn’t like to admit it.  I also took a class in highschool called Teaching Academy where I got to return to my old grade school and help in the classrooms.  My grade 6 teacher was a real encouragement when I worked in his class.  In university I was still undecided about what to study.  I knew I wanted to be in a service/advocacy oriented field.  I knew I wanted to be an advocate for people who otherwise would not have the support.  I taught as a special needs teacher for 5 years, and loved the work with students but did not enjoy the tedious paperwork.  I needed a break, so came as a volunteer to Grahamstown.  I got involved with several projects: Amasango Career School, Kuyasa Special School and the Holy Cross school (only an after school programme at that time) and GADRA Education.  While here I came to realize the critical nature of education, not just to get good grades, but to develop oneself, build self-confidence, and to be curious about the world I lives in.  I really took my education and my profession as a teacher for granted.  Here I saw a real need, and recognized that my experience teaching in the U.S. was valuable. My abilities met with a real need, and thus became my passion for education in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

2.) What’s your current connection to education?

I am running a project at Ntsika Highschool called Inkululeko.  I work with 18 talented grade 8 and 9 learners from 4 different schools who really want to do well in school and in life.  We commit 3 days a week to working on Maths, Natural Science and Language studies.  We do a lot of projects and group work to learn the concepts teachers are teaching during the day so learners can really understand what it is they are trying to learn.  We try to do this in a way that builds their confidence and helps them to figure out how to learn for themselves and find creative new ways to use the information they learn. I am also a learner myself studying for a Master’s in Mathematics Education Research at Rhodes.  I am researching how learners think creatively to solve mathematical problems in grade 8 and 9.  If learners can solve mathematics problems in creative ways, there is nothing stopping them being able to solve any and all problems that come their way in life.

3.)Why Grahamstown?

I fell in love with Grahamstown in 2007 when I first came.  I met my wife Zinzi here, so this place is full of friendships, family and memories.  Also, I see Grahamstown as a microcosm of the world.  Resources are available, and there is a full spectrum of living situations.  If we can develop as a community here in a positive direction for all, then there is potential for the world at large.

4.)What is your favourite book from your childhood?

Go Dog Go! was the book that I remember making the connection that the funny squiggly lines on the page were letters that combined to make words that told me what was happening with the pictures in the book.  I also loved “Where The Wild Things Are” and “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”   We all have bad days and that is okay.

5.) What motivates you to stay in education?

The learners I work with. They are like family and their sense of humour, energy, and growing confidence inspires me B. Because there is a real need for education beyond what happens in the classroom. C. There is a lot about school I get frustrated with, but I am always in awe of what the power of inquisitive learning can do.

6.) If you were forced to go back to school, which grade would you return to and why?

4th Grade, I just loved it!  6th grade too!  Mostly because of my teachers Mrs. Looper and Mr. Wheeler.

7.)What’s the one thing about you few people know?

I am very excited for a hike I am going to do.  My friends and I built a cart to carry water and supplies and we are going to go on a 200km hike through the Karoo!  I am super excited for the challenge.  I love to be outdoors.

8.) If there was one thing about education in South Africa that you could instantly change, what would it be?

I would hope for a magical creative, adaptive and vibrant energy to revitalize our teachers.  South Africa has very good teachers, but they are tired, overwhelmed. If we could start directing our interests into how to support teachers with strategies that work for the difficult situations they are working in rather than continually telling them how bad a job they are doing, then we could build teacher confidence, and find pockets of greatness in an otherwise overwhelming situation.  Teachers need the energy and adaptiveness to come up with creative ways to make things work in overcrowded, underesourced classrooms.   We need to recognize and encourage those rock star teachers that I know are out there and develop an ethos in the schools that recognize the giftedness of some of our teachers.

9.)  What do you think the community can do for education?

If the community at large can begin to see the brilliance of our youth despite limited opportunities to shine.  There are so many things we take for granted about what happens outside the classroom in regard to education.  Playing board games, organized sport, debate clubs, social events. Most of all learners need opportunities to be recognized for the unique individuals they are not just whether or not they are top ten at school.  Improving education requires holistic supports.  The issue of improving schools will take a lot of time.  In the meantime the community must also find ways to support and encourage learners while in their communities.

10.) Do you like green eggs and ham?

Only if it is in can on a pan eaten with a mop while drinking a soda pop.

 _______________________________

Deputy Director and Curriculum Advisor of Inkululeko, Matt Kellen, is a teacher by trade who studied Special Needs Education at Western Washington University. After teaching for three years in the United States, he was eager to see what it was like outside of his corner of the world. The corner he landed in however, was Grahamstown.

During this time, Kellen found that he was passionate about collaborating with others to provide innovative solutions to educational challenges facing the Grahamstown community. In 2009 he returned to the US and later came back to start the non-profit organisation. The project, which means freedom in isiXhosa, is aimed at assisting learners from previously-disadvantaged backgrounds to individually and collectively improve on areas of academic deficiency. “I strongly believe that education has the potential to empower, which is why Inkululeko offers this space for learners to pursue their dreams of higher education, regardless of socio-economic status” Kellen said.

Continuing with his work of transforming education in Grahamstown, Kellen added that despite teachers being the driving force behind educational innovation, they cannot think for learners, nor can they impose their thoughts on them.

“One of our main focuses really is to ensure that the learners are able to think critically and not just take in things like a parrot. All the skills, support and guidance we provide them with, help challenge the bigotry of low expectations for township youth” he said.

Kellen emphasised that while many of the learners he works with are from marginalised backgrounds, he is determined to make a change, even with the country’s undeniable problems with the quality of basic education. He added that providing such opportunities and support can have a monumental impact on how learners view themselves, and in turn, how they view what is possible in their own lives. “The main problem is that most of these learners struggle because of lack of quality education. It is not that they are inherently unable to succeed” he said.

Although the project requires commitment that is enormously demanding, Kellen stressed that it has been a pleasure working with a group of learners who are able to develop the knowledge, skills and values to enable them to thrive once they get to higher education institutions.

“They continue to surprise me, really. It is like they have taken ownership of the project” he said.

However Kellen added that while the organisation itself is going well, being an outsider has proved to be a bit of a challenge.

“I view my work as detective work.  There are many things I am unaware of, and as I continue to work with students and rely on their insight, the complexities are more clearly revealed.  This process takes time which is frustrating,” he said.

As an outsider with objective eyes, Kellen believes that he is able to be a detective in sorting out what the real issues are for the learners.

“In relying heavily on our learners to show us the challenges, they are more able to take ownership of their successes in overcoming those challenges’ he said.

 

In addition, Kellen said that he hopes to see a collective impact on improving the country’s education system. “In the words of Paulo Freire: knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

To me, what this means is that the freedom that comes with education is the ability to think for oneself based on one’s own restless inquiry, and then pursue what is good and right and just with tangible hope that you can be part of the solution or at least less a part of the problem” he said.