Attorney makes it count

2020-02-25 06:00
Mierwhaan Manan.

Mierwhaan Manan.

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The need for primary school learners to understand the fundamentals of mathematics is the reason why attorney Mierwhaan Manan is sharing his knowledge at Heideveld and Athwood primary schools in Hanover Park these past three years.

“You don’t need to be tech-savvy to understand maths, science and computers. All you need is a pen, a lot of paper, a bin (for the scrap paper with the mistakes) and determination,” he says.

He says nobody gets everything right the first time, you need to make mistakes and you learn from your mistakes. Mathematics is not a spectator “sport” it is a participation “sport”.

Manan has a BSc (maths) from the Washington and Lee University in the United States of America, a management degree from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), a LLB from the University of the Western Cape that he completed in a record time, and a post-graduate diploma in legal practice (UCT).

“Between my BSc (maths) and LLB degrees it is difficult to choose as I love both disciplines.”

Why law after a degree in mathematics?

“Initially. I was interested in environmental law and because I was in Information Technology I became interested in internet law; of how contracts are concluded when everything is being done online.

“Furthermore, at my previous employment (Pathcare) I became the chair of the staff association which impelled me towards disciplinary hearings and hence an interest of criminal litigation. At the same time, I became chair of the Pathcare Retirement Fund which gave me a keen attentiveness in Social Security Law. So the law discipline became a natural progression,” he says.

Manan says often primary school teachers are not trained in maths, yet they find themselves teaching the subject.

To remedy this each primary school needs a teacher with at least a successful year in maths/science at tertiary level to teach the subject.

“The primary school math/science teachers should attend a class where they are taught all the essential ground rules in the syllabus,” Manan says.

He says it takes a village to raise a child and there is a need for maths intervention in primary schools.

“The damage that is done in primary school from teachers who are not equipped to teach maths is difficult to undo, and students struggle with basic concepts and develop a dislike for the subject,” he says.

“Students struggle with maths and science because there is not enough repetition and cementing of fundamentals at primary school level and concepts that teachers don’t understand themselves are skipped or they are taught incorrectly.”

Manan is one of two partners at Samuels and Manan Attorneys (S&M Attorneys).

“In the mornings I am in court and in the afternoon I try to help at a school, teaching maths. Sometimes I have a student at my house and at night I do legal research and prepare for the next day. This is how I combine the two,” he explains.

His role models growing up were his mom, Salega Manan, and his late dad, Abduraghmaan Manan.

“My dad woke up early every day and went to work in a factory as a presser at Rex Trueform. I learnt to get up, show up and have a good work ethic. God bless his soul.

“My mom was a dressmaker and worked from home. She made the house a home with love, open communication and respect. She was also a disciplinarian. She is a difficult act to follow, and I am still learning from her as she lives with me,” he says.

Manan went to school at Heideveld Primary, which included Standard 6 at the time. Thereafter he spent a year at Cathkin High School and for his senior high school, he attended Trafalgar High School.

He says he had a few teachers who were vital in laying his foundation.

“At Heideveld Primary School, I had Edmund Swartz and Trevor Armstrong; they taught me something new every day. You have to learn something every day. At the end of every day, one must be bigger and more than you were when you woke up that morning, that’s how you grow.

“At Trafalgar High, I had masterful teachers in maths – Victor Parry and Goosain Emeran – and in science, Saleh Adams. These teachers were nothing short of giants in their fields.”

Manan grew up in Heideveld and lived there for approximately 30 years. 

“We were six, later seven siblings in a one- and later two-bedroom council dwelling (in a court of flats). With nine individuals in a two-bedroom dwelling, it was interesting, exciting and challenging at times,” he says. 

According to Manan, learners or students’ willingness to get an education and plough back into their communities is linked to their moral convictions.

“For me it is paramount. ‘Umntu ngumntu ngabantu’. We are because of others, so you can’t just take, you have to give back. I am reminded that ‘it is when you give of yourself that you truly give’ (Kahlil Gibran). 

“So, let the season of giving be yours, give your expertise by ploughing back into your community. That is the right thing to do,” he says. 

In the past, Manan and his business partner, Labiek Samuels, donated an hour of their time every week on the radio, advising the community on legal issues. 

Today he assists in mathematics at primary school level because he feels that’s where the need is the greatest. Some afternoons he gives math classes, but work sometimes gets in the way of his intention to reach out to learners.

In 1982 and 1983, Manan was also instrumental in having Heideveld library extended to the size it is today. 

“The one thing I would change where I currently live in Summer Greens, Milnerton, is to get the ward councillor to budget for a library and then run maths and chess classes from there. Kids will then have a place to study, learn and have some type of fun,” he says.

Manan says it is so satisfying to see the lights go on in a student. 

“The sight of a student getting excited about some new-found knowledge is priceless.” 

Going back to whether mathematics and law are mutually exclusive, Manan says, “I would concede for the most part they are, however, mathematics is about rules and the application thereof and the legal fraternity is about laws and the function thereof. And life is about rules/laws and the usage thereof. It would, therefore, appear that mathematics, law and life are all about a higher power and the submission to it.”

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