“Understanding Maths will help you with all other subjects and in life,” Gift Zwezwe tells his Grade 12 learners.
“Even if you want to be a professional soccer player, it will be useful. When Ronaldo takes a shot, he needs to understand the angles and work out the best option before he shoots. That’s geometry.”
While football and maths don’t seem like natural partners, Gift often uses fun real-life situations to explain difficult Maths terms. From bank passwords to number plates – simple, interesting and easy to understand – that’s the way Gift likes to teach.
Gift has always loved learning. Early on, while walking 18kms to school and back each day he heeded the advice of one of his teachers who told him that determination, dedication and diligence would get him where he wanted to go. “I had to work hard even in challenging circumstances and be focussed.” With his ability to grasp concepts easily, he was often called upon to assist learners in higher grades to understand the work.
While Gift has been the first in his family to complete Grade 12, the first with a Degree, the first Head of Department, his parents set a good example of the value of working hard in the circumstances they were in. “When there was a mess of books scattered all over my bedroom, they did not complain, they supported my need to know things.”
“Some don’t understand the power of education – it really can change lives. I used it to change mine. But you must be serious.” Gift encourages learners to become teachers, so that they can go back to their rural communities and contribute to changing the lives of others too. “Many things can be accomplished with hard work and a good understanding of Maths. Don’t wait until you are in Grade 11 to start focussing,” he advises, “it is important to have the building blocks in each grade that relate to higher learning. When there are links missing, it is almost impossible to catch up.”
As part of the Vula Maths and Science programme, Gift bumped into his high school teacher Nosisa Sisobo who is now a Vula facilitator as well as an educator. She was delighted to find he had followed his passion for maths and was helping excite the next generation. With Vula he learnt new ways of teaching difficult concepts and how to create engaging visuals to assist learners to grasp them. “I wish it was possible for students from other schools to join me for extra lessons on Saturdays and during holidays, but the problem in rural areas is always transport.”
Every evening, Gift makes sure he is fully prepared for the next day, lessons planned, examples ready. Then he can turn on the TV, relax and watch Orlando Pirates play, or if Barcelona is playing, work out the best possible angle for Ronaldo to take a penalty.