As schools open on Wednesday in the coastal provinces, The Daily Vox visited the important people who lay the foundation for education – grade 1 teachers. They shared the joys and challenges of teaching the little ones with ZIMASA MATIWANE.
Sharon Smart, teaching for 30 years, St Augustine’s Primary School, Greyville, Durban
Teaching grade 1 requires a lot of time, effort, and dedication. I am here to work with the child according to what they need to progress to the next grade. Grade 1 seems tiring, but for me it’s not because it’s a continuous repetition of everything we do all the time, ensuring that the child understands everything before moving to the next grade. The challenge is the constant change of curriculum. I have to meet the requirements that come with the changes, to ensure that the children complete the vast Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) programme. I also need parents to understand that they have to work in partnership with me, because that is also very important in ensuring smooth progress. One of the joys of teaching grade 1 is that at the beginning of the year the child comes knowing very little and by the time they leave they have learnt so much and can go to grade 2 confident. I love that they are curious and open to learning. I treat each child equally, but uniquely because they are different individuals. My wish for the incoming learners is that they achieve their dreams – that will make me very happy and proud.
Tholakele Ximba, teaching for 23 years, Daluxolo Primary School, KwaMashu, Durban
I love teaching grade one because the children are respectful, have a thirst for knowledge and are full of love. They lose concentration quickly: that is why a grade one teacher has to be patient, and teach and discipline with love and care. As the year begins I want to put more effort into building these children’s future. I would appreciate cooperation and communication from parents in terms of helping the children and speaking to me about any challenges the child is facing that might hinder the learning process. In the community I serve there is a lot of poverty, so we have the challenge of the government feeding scheme not providing meals for the last two weeks before school holidays. Children come to school and do not get the food like the always do. Some even cry of hunger and we teachers and their classmates who brought lunch divide and share equally among the class. I love them and treat them like my grandchildren, that way they can trust me and confide in me.
Sibongile Madlala, teaching for 33 years, Daluxolo Primary School, KwaMashu, Durban
Grade ones are fun to teach: they require an equally fun, caring and loving teacher. As a grade one teacher I face many challenges. Most of the children I get in grade 1 have not gone through grade R, that makes my work difficult and slows progress because the grade R curriculum teaches basics that are vital in coping with grade one. For example, those who did not go to grade R cannot hold a pencil, draw an egg or know how to write between the lines. Apart from that, some live with grandparents who did not go to school, and thus cannot assist with homework. We grade one teachers do not only teach, we have to spot who does not have food at home, whose parent does not have money for underwear, who has learning difficulties, who does not have a birth certificate and is not getting a child-support grant. We do all we can to help and make the child’s circumstances easier. With all that said, they look so beautiful with their new uniforms and I’m looking forward to meeting my new class.
Cassandra Pendy, teaching for 13 years, St Augustine’s Primary School, Greyville, Durban
I love teaching little ones: they are so much joy. Grade 1 is an important time of their lives, the foundation is very important. I feel that I have a lot to give, that I can train and mould them into what they ought to be in the future – the little ones are easy to mould. It can be a challenge when children are not ready to learn because I have to use every trick in the book to get them to do tasks. Some children have learning difficulties and if they have not been seen by a professional and have a diagnosis then it’s my duty to ensure that happens, so I am able to help them by changing the teaching style to suite that child. Language also becomes a problem because I am an English-medium teacher and some children may not understand the language yet. Last year I got a trophy for the best class, this year I hope to get it again. I love children and I am passionate about teaching: I love pushing my children to excel.
Juanita Pillay, teaching for two years, St Anthony’s Primary School, Greyville, Durban
The first day is always a busy day: lots of new faces; lots of crying, probably; but we are hoping it goes off smoothly and that the children are all at school. It’s a big day for the children – and parents as well. I love teaching grade one, because the children come as clean slates. I start from the beginning and see them learn and progress through the year. The most exciting thing is teaching them new songs and learning little dances, they love that. They learn so quickly – it’s very cute and fun. I come across challenges like language barriers. A lot of our children don’t speak very good English, and some have not been to a good grade R so they don’t have basics like writing their name and counting. When the basic foundation for going into grade 1 hasn’t been built properly, it’s a challenge. It’s scary that most of the children do not have those basics, even though it’s a requirement that they have to go through grade R. We need parents to do certain amount of work in order for us to fulfill our duties properly – like helping with homework, preparing for spelling tests and reading. Foundation is very important and as a grade 1 teacher my greatest goal is that they are all able to pass and pass well.
– All images: By Zimasa Matiwane.