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Go out and be experts

| January 8, 2021 | 0 Comments


‘Go out and be experts in your niche, and possibly rise up through the ranks and one day be ministers of education, who will be amenable to the role played by the independent education sector in the country.’

These words, spoken by ISASA executive director, Lebogang Montjane, were given as ‘marching orders’ to our cohort of graduates who had completed the ISASA South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme (SAMSTIP) programme in 2019. They were a legion ready to go out into the sector.

Today, Montanje’s encouraging words are needed more than ever as the education sector continues to grapple with issues of transformation.

I hail from KwaZulu-Natal, but because my parents were migrant labourers, my two siblings and I found ourselves in primary and high schools in Soweto, Gauteng, where I completed matric in 2006. With no prospect of going to university, I immediately left school to find odd jobs in the wholesale retail sector, and was employed there for seven odd years. Needless to say, the tenor of my life was plagued by frustration: I felt my life was stagnant and that having a basic education did not guarantee anyone a fair chance of further studies.

From a young age, I had always had a burning desire to become a teacher, but the teacher I had in mind was not just a conventional teacher. I saw myself in a role where I would, as they say, ‘touch eternity’. I have always been at pains to note how the teaching profession had lost nobility, and how there is a disjuncture between the quality of teachers in this country and the dire need for the country to level up with our global peers in terms of education standards.

My journey

In 2013, I applied to join SAMSTIP, which was then called the ISASA Maths and English Teacher Internship Programme (M&E), and was accepted. To this day I remain grateful to Wilson Sokana, the head of mathematical innovation at St Peters College, who sat on the interview panel in the monitoring and evaluation intake process, as he offered to mentor me. I spent a year under his guidance at St Peters College in Sunninghill, Johannesburg. Due to family dynamics, I then relocated to KwaZulu-Natal for a year, and the M&E programme extended me so much extra support and offered me a placement at Kings School in the KZN midlands, where I spent a year at the boarding school and further pursued my internship. Upon my return to Gauteng, I moved to Vuleka SSB High School, another ISASA member school, until completion of my internship in 2018.

Apart from the benefits of fully paid tuition fees at the University of South Africa, where I enrolled for a B Ed (Senior and Further Education and Training Phase) qualification as part of the internship programme requirements, being placed at ISASA schools provided an ambience where one could be immersed in school life and be a fully-fledged educator. The schools I was in endowed me with the requisite skills in subject expertise (mathematics) as well as vast experience in understanding diversity and the broader education spectrum.

From a young man who had entirely lost hope of ever getting a career breakthrough in life, I found myself five years later, after I had joined the programme, having achieved a Bachelor of Education with Honours degree (cum laude), and recognising that I was now an individual who could navigate well along an education career pathway.

A pivotal element

I am currently employed at Moletsane Secondary School in Soweto, where, on a daily basis, I find myself implementing all the strategies and approaches I learnt in the ISASA member schools classrooms, and I see myself as a pivotal element in bridging the divide between the so-called two education ‘spheres’ in this country. I have been able to maintain good networking relations with a plethora of prolific individuals and organisations in the education sector, e.g., Maths at SHARP1 and the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa.2 The sharing of resources with such contacts allows me to expose African children to a world of possibilities; a world I did not know existed during my high school years.

SAMSTIP part of a successful public-private partnership

For me, programmes like SAMSTIP are the embodiment of what can be achieved when stakeholders embark upon an altruistic public-private partnership. This has been aptly encapsulated by Setlogane Manchidi, head of corporate social investment at Investec, who said: ‘through such ventures, big conglomerates like Investec exhibit that we do not live off society, but within society.’ Corporate South Africa must lend a hand to the developmental agenda of the state and not be seen as inimical to the endeavours of government to improve the lives of ordinary South Africans.

The South African Mathematics and Science Teacher Intern Programme draws on the quality education offered by Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA) member schools to help solve a root cause of South Africa’s pressing skills shortage: the critical lack of qualified mathematics and science teachers. To learn more about the initiative, visit: or contact Lesiba Langa, the SAMSTIP operations coordinator at ISASA, at telephone: +27 (11) 648-1331.

Category: Summer 2019

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