“Edufundi lives on”July 25, 2023
Why do we need educator mentorship in South African schools?August 1, 2023
Walking into Impendulo Primary School in the Makhaza neighbourhood of Khayelitsha, you would not imagine that it hosts 1,530 learners in small classrooms with limited resources. The school is immaculate and has a tranquil energy to it. Learner behaviour and discipline has a large role to play in this, according to the teachers and deputy principal at the school. Edufundi - whose Edufundi Support Programme started at the school last year - has had an impact on this, and has assisted both teachers and the School Management Team (SMT) to improve learner behaviour.
“There are currently 1,530 learners enrolled here - it is a huge school,” says Ms Matsaluka, the Deputy Principal in the Intermediate and Senior Phase at the school, “and discipline has been an issue”.
Discipline is cited as a difficulty by several teachers and SMT members in South African schools. A combination of overcrowded classrooms and limited resources does not help, as learners may not get much interaction and attention from staff.
Teaching college not preparing people
Mr Mpanga is a Maths, Science and Technology teacher for Grade 6 and 7 learners at Impendulo Primary School. He is in his first year of teaching and has an Edufundi Mentor - Loveness. Mr Mpanga feels that teacher training does not properly equip teachers to deal with learner discipline and behaviour.
“My biggest challenge last year was admin and discipline,” he says. “I did not know how to discipline, and I think we were not trained for that in varsity. I thought I could just deliver the content and that is all - so classroom management was a challenge.”
Ms Ncaphayi, a Grade 2 teacher at the school, echoes Mr Mpanga’s sentiment. She is in her third year of teaching, and Tandiwe is her Edufundi Mentor. With 43 learners in her classroom, Ms Ncaphayi struggled to ensure each learner received attention. “Discipline has always been a problem because we have overcrowded classes,” she explains. “It is really difficult to give attention to all the learners in the classroom.”
Learning new techniques for discipline and classroom management
The school is now in its second year with the Edufundi Support Programme. “With Edufundi in my corner now, I know which techniques to use to grab everyone’s attention [in the classroom],” says Ms Ncaphayi. “It has been a slow process but I can see now that the behaviour is changing.” This makes for a calmer classroom, a more conducive learning environment, and a more enjoyable experience for the teachers themselves.
Being an engaged teacher, and communicating in engaging ways with learners, has also helped in Mr Mpanga’s classroom. “One of my goals this year was to manage my classroom,” says Mr Mpanga, “and Edufundi has played a huge role in this … there are techniques I use to get learners’ attention. We are communicating in an exciting way now and they are loving it.”
Ms Matsaluka, the Deputy Principal, has also noticed a difference on a wider, school-based level. The general discipline in the school - although still a challenge sometimes - has changed through basic teaching techniques. She cites the Entry and Exit Routines as powerful tools in changing learner behaviour. “Kids now know that they enter and exit in a certain way for example,” she says, and speaks to the fact that learners have more purpose in the school.
Rethinking teaching as a kind of leadership
It is not only teaching techniques that can improve learner behaviour: reconceptualizing what it means to be a teacher, and how to lead, can also have a deep impact.
“Before, I wanted to show myself as the boss,” reflects Mr Mpanga. “But it is not about that. It is about being a leader - which is different to a boss. When you are a leader, you just show [learners] the way, and they follow.” For Ms Ncaphayi, leading as a teacher is about developing a loving and respectful relationship between learners and teachers. “I feel different now,” she says. “I am developing that love for my kids and they respond to this.”
Rethinking leadership has also taken place at the SMT level at the school - which is also in its second year of Edufundi mentorship, under the guidance of Kholeka, the Western Cape Edufundi Leadership Coach. “With the SMT, I have seen changes in communication,” says Ms Matsaluka. “We have to respect each other’s ideas, work as a team … and make sure that we are in the same boat.”
More than a school
Learning is not only for learners - teachers and SMTs at Impendulo Primary School are striking out on a learning path too, it seems. Mr Mpanga says his perception on teaching has changed. “Some teachers just carry the textbook and deliver the content - but with Edufundi, you interact with learners … there is a lot that I have learnt from the programme and I am thankful that I have been a part of it.” Such sentiments are reflected by the Deputy Principal - who links this into the wider community that the school is part of. “We need to implement whatever we have learnt and see how effective it is,” she says, “which is for the benefit of the learners and the community that we serve.”