Nosisa Sosibo was born with Mathematics in her bones.
“It must be genetic because I have loved numbers as long as I can remember,” she asserts. Enrolling for Grade One at a deep rural uMzimkhulu school with the ability to count and add certainly surprised her teachers! As is common for children who grow up in traditional areas, she had to use her imagination to invent games and toys – stones, tin cans and sticks to draw in the dust, all become useful props in make-believe schools where Nosisa was often the ‘teacher’.
Although her Maths teachers were not always the best, her natural excitement and personal motivation meant that she did well. “If you really want to do something, then you can do it.”
After Matric, financial constraints prevented her from studying further, but even while doing household chores and helping in the fields, her dreams did not perish. “I knew that one day I would be able to do what I wanted. I was not crushed by circumstance.” After three years, an opportunity arose to pursue her dream to study Chemical Engineering. Despite the very real challenges of living in a tiny back room far from home, without enough money to buy food, she passed the first two years. Back in the 90’s it was not easy to find a place to do the practical component (third year) of her Diploma. “There was no internet to search for opportunities, no email, no SMS,” she recalls, “just making copies of documents and going to the post office to post letters would take a whole day of travelling. It was so costly.”
She heard of an opportunity to teach Maths at a nearby school and grabbed the chance to do something useful and earn money. She loved it. “The best thing about Maths is that it is not like history where you need to remember when van Riebeck was born and do all that memorising. It is just fun, like a game or puzzle.”
She was thrilled to receive a bursary to do her Bachelor of Education. However, after starting her studies the bursary failed to provide all that was promised, and she decided to go back to teaching. Despite Nosisa’s lack of formal qualifications, her reputation was spreading and before long she was asked to teach at a high school in Donnybrook. “I had no idea where that was, and I just arrived with my bag on the first day. The teachers laughed and asked if I was going to sleep in that bag?”
It was here that she completed her National Diploma in Education (NPDE) and met Vula – an organisation that provides educational interventions and development opportunities to upgrade the teaching and learning of high school Maths and Physical Science. Through the Vula programme Nosisa learned new methodology, was exposed to novel experiences and challenged to use technology as a teaching aid. “Vula helped grow my confidence and made me love Maths even more. The more you know, the better motivated you become and now I am able to share my skills with others.”
Last year, she was appointed as HOD of Maths and Science at Sonyongwana School near Creighton. Clearly, she is well loved by her fellow teachers and the principal, Mr Xulu, is full of praise. “Our Matric results went from 70% pass in 2016 to 91% in 2017 with the improvement in Maths marks, and Physics also doubled to 87% pass! I am certain it is due to Nosisa’s influence and that we will have a 100% pass rate in 2018.”
Nosisa believes that a positive leader encourages everyone and helps them to thrive. While she could have lived in town and commuted daily to school, she chose to live right in the community where she is able to walk to work. “It is important to build relationships and understand the learners’ backgrounds if you want to get the best from them.”
The impact of Nosisa’s commitment is obvious. “I want to help the kids to not be afraid of Maths, but just to have fun and enjoy the ride.”