Teacher’s magic transforms school

2014-03-14 00:00

ALMOST 40 five-year-olds were cramped in a classroom, sitting on top of their desks, when Abegail Makumela first walked into a Grade R class at Hopewell Primary School in 2009.

There were no signs of interesting or stimulating charts that one usually finds pasted on the walls in a typical beginners’ class environment.

There was nothing that screamed “fun” about being in that classroom, Makumela recalls.

Heavy-hearted about what she saw, the enthusiastic and passionate teacher said she called Kalinka Aftercare Pre-Primary in Oribi where she had been volunteering for a couple of years and asked them to donate toys — which they generously did.

In her own words, an “old lady” at the Department of Education gave her charts.

She then created magic and a conducive environment for learning.

With only her level 4 qualification in Early Childhood Development at that time –– she turned the Grade R class around in just a few days.

This month, Makumela scooped a top award at the National Teaching Awards in the Excellence Grade R Teaching category, winning R200 000 for her school and R25 000 for herself, which she said she will use to pursue her honours degree.

While she was a busy bee at her Grade R class, she was studying part-time towards her teaching degree at Embury College where she graduated cum laude, achieving 32 distinctions out of 40 modules in 2012.

And five years after she started at Hopewell, the school now has three Grade R classes.

She said some of the crèches in the area were forced to shut down because parents wanted to send their children to her school.

Hopewell is situated in a poverty stricken environment, but Makumela has been able to inspire the children and all those around her.

Thanks to the prize money, the school of about 700 pupils will now have a computer lab and teachers will also undergo a computer course.

“Out of all the teachers, I’m the only one including the clerk that is computer literate,” she said.

Makumela, who always dreamt of working with children, said she finds joy in her job.

“A parent told me she had once asked her child for her teacher’s name and the child responded: ‘It’s that teacher that calls us sthandwa [beloved]’,” she said smiling.

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