Monday’s Starfish – “You Matter”

By Bakang Gunika

My team serves in Kagiso on the West Rand, at WD Oliphant Primary School. There is a grade 6 boy who is part of our after-school programme, and struggled with mathematics, especially multiplication. His lack of understanding made him reluctant to participate in class. And in this case, when the learner was unwilling to do certain tasks, it led him to be destructive in class.

One of my teammates noticed that he was not paying attention in class, and approached him. With a with a calm voice she asked, “What seems to be the problem?” He replied, saying he didn’t understand and was not interested. At first the boy resisted the daily help he received from my teammate. She had heard that no matter what she did to help, the learner would keep on disappointing her. It is better to leave him alone, she was told.

But she was committed to helping him. She didn’t take the nasty things she had heard about the young boy into consideration. She ignored the stories, and was determined to be open-minded. I think she doesn’t believe in the word, impossible. The way she attended to him was so warm and friendly, that the learner soon opened up to her. She explained how to do multiplication in different ways. Ways that he could understand and follow. She reminded him that in mathematics, there are many ways to arrive at an answer.

Before long the boy started to see the light, and we started seeing wonders. I was so astounded, as was his teacher, by his development and progress. His classwork scores soared and by him improving, he started enjoying mathematics. But most of all, he restored his love of learning. City Year has only been in the school for a few months, but we have Service Leaders that are already having an impact on children’s lives. I’m thrilled at how quickly we managed to really help someone, and we still have plenty of time before the end of the year to make more of a difference.

Going Above and Beyond

By Titus Macuacua & Victor Maseko, 2012 Service Leaders

A particular young boy in our after school programme at Lawley Primary, loves City Year and always tells his mother, who works at the school, about the activities he does with us. One day his mother, Mrs. Kgosana, came up to us at lunch and said, “Just know that we as parents and the community are really grateful for what City Year is doing for our children. My son who is in grade 6 cannot close his mouth about how good and helpful you are to him.”  She then kindly asked why City Year is not in high schools and we replied, laughing, that the answer to that question was above our pay grade. Mrs. Kgosana started telling us about Nomathemba, her 16 year old daughter in grade 10, who was failing maths. She asked us, “How can you help me to help my child out of this misery?” We said that we would think about it and talk it through with our Site Leader Alexi, to see if there was anything we could do to assist.

The next day as we were about to wrap up, we heard a knock at the door and saw Mrs. Kgosana standing there with her daughter at her side. She said, “I am leaving her with City Year. See what you can do.” We were shocked and confused.  We had not said yes, or even had the chance to speak to Alexi! But, we decided on the spot that we were going to help this girl, even if it meant staying behind every day after our work with City Year was complete. We decided to initiate our own programme, which would run immediately after the City Year Children’s Club, between 4:30pm and 6pm. Without wasting any time we started tutoring the young girl the same day that her mother brought her to us.

First we motivated her, and made sure that she started off with a positive mindset. Then we started with the basics. As time went by we watched her progress. She came to us for help with her own sums that she was working on at home, and also the ones that she got at school. Nomathemba stayed motivated and slowly started to love maths. We continued working with her for about 5 weeks, until she could no longer attend because her school had started their own after-school programme. When she left, we asked each other whether we had made any difference in her life.

Shortly after we stopped working with Noma, while helping in the schools kitchen, Mrs. Kgosana told us about how disappointed she was that her daughter could no longer attend our classes.  But she smiled at us and said “For the first time bafana bami bengiqala ukubona uSbongile ezimisele ngomsebenzi wakhe wesikole kakhulu ngezibhalo” which means “For the first time in my life, I have seen my daughter practicing maths and taking her school work seriously”. We smiled and both said, “WE HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE.” We managed to change Noma’s attitude towards learning, as well as her negative mindset towards maths, and we have given her mother new hope that her daughter will make it.