The stories of change come from the field of practice – from classrooms, schools, and the district offices. They are told from the perspectives of those who are involved in and are experiencing changes in their daily work.

Jika iMfundo at Ntolwane Primary School

The saying ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast’ becomes so relevant when one gets to a school in the deep rural area of Nkandla, many kilometres from the big towns, and find teachers working diligently with focus and passion to ensure that learners benefit exceedingly from them. The world we live in speaks so negatively about education and some people have lost hope of any sound education in schools. The feeling of hopefulness endlessly renews itself when one talks to the Principal and the SMT of Ntolwane Primary School at Nkandla in Uthungulu District.

With so many changes taking place in life in general life has become more unpredictable. Some soldier on whilst others give up. The danger of giving up is that the world gets to a standstill for the group in that space. With so many changes that have taken place in education over the years, education itself has become a victim. There had to be one sane and sound concept that could be delivered and restore lost hope. Such a concept should not destroy what had been there before, but had to build from it and complement the good in the curriculum. Such a concept could come as a programme that would give direction after so many inconsistent directives, some of which had not been tried and tested. Jika iMfundo came as such a concept to fill the gaps that some of which had long been outstanding.

This is the perception one gets as one meets the teachers who have embraced Jika iMfundo programme. It is the perception of hope that expressed the school managers in schools like Ntolwane Primary School. Some talk about the link which had been missing for a while, but was found and restored with the introduction of Jika iMfundo. It came at the right time when teachers needed to be taken, almost by hand, and be given assurance that education is indeed the key to good life. Some educators may have doubted the hard-earned qualifications they hold because they might have seemed irrelevant. Without destroying the existing curriculum this programme came and gave a breath of life to the life of teachers. Irrespective of whether the school is in a rural or an urban environment, the programme guided the everyday life of teachers. This is the expression one gets when talking to the Principal and the School Management Team of Ntolwane Primary School.

Ntolwane Primary School is a school with single story classrooms scattered in a vast area in the village making the school premises. The Principal of the school, Mr Xulu, firstly states that Jika iMfundo bridges the gap between the school and the SEMs. Since there is a big number of schools lately, SEMs have a bigger load to take care of, than it was in the past. When the programme was introduced it brought about relief, giving close guidance to practitioners and school managers as they do their work. The introduction of Jika iMfundo, with workshops for teachers and management closed the gaps and empowered Principals to be independent thinkers as they manage the schools. The availability of tools help in implementing and managing the curriculum and the monitoring of school work.

The Head of Department, Mrs Magwaza, started her conversation by comparing Jika iMfundo programme with CAPS. She recalls the days when as a teacher she had to introduce and implement CAPS. The challenge she experienced was that CAPS came just as topics and as a teacher she had to develop the activities on her own. With no proper guidance and no tools she had to teach the learners without any hesitation. This was one of the trying times in her career. CAPS only gave the scope and the teacher had to work on the activities herself. This was the time when she had to be the master of what she was teaching, yet she had no clear direction.

When Jika iMfundo programme was introduced, she embraced it as it came with close guidance from the team. The introduction of Jika iMfundo eliminated inconsistency and poor preparation for curriculum implementation because activities were provided, making it easier to manage learning and teaching. The resources brought by Jika iMfundo improves the capability of teachers. The teachers use charts as they teach English and it has tremendously improved communication in English for the learners. They have improved in sentence construction and there are signs of eloquence which Mrs Magwaza strongly believes is the benefit of implementing Jika iMfundo. Through these resources English speaking has improved a lot compared to time before Jika iMfundo introduction.

It is quite interesting to observe uniqueness in people, demonstrated by the different positive reactions they express towards Jika iMfundo. The positive vibe experienced at Ntolwane Primary School is expressed differently by other schools, but all confirm that it improves confidence and focus of teachers in doing their work. It improves diligence and reception. The enthusiasm which Mrs Magwaza portrayed became more visible and evident when she invited us into one of the classrooms. This classroom was a clear sign of a learning environment, with young learners showing a positive attitude and discipline towards the visitors. Pictures and charts on the wall give life to the classroom and eliminates any doubt of good work taking place in the school. It is in this classroom where another teacher was busy with the learners. When all is said and done, the Head of Department gives credit to the programme which was introduced to them and changed the meaning and approach to their work.

Mrs Magwaza reiterates that Jika iMfundo is instrumental in improving conversation in learners and it makes teachers’ work easier to do. In some instances when the world seems to be operating at an average level, and hope seems to be fading away, there is a need of one voice that speaks loud enough to be heard by even the dullest of all. This is what Jika iMfundo did to the rural based school. The HOD found a leg on which to stand. She found a program that informed her everyday activity in the classroom, making it easier to play her role as a manager.
One thing that she appreciates is that the team from Jika iMfundo is visible and interacts with the teachers, thus making the programme easier to implement. The teachers like the programme and feel good as they engage in various activities with learners. According to Mrs Magwaza, when the teacher links CAPS with Jika iMfundo there is no conflict, because the programmes are similar in a way. Jika iMfundo has made it easier to implement the curriculum. The programme guides and leads the teacher to do his/her work and if followed properly, being creative here and there, the curriculum of the year gets completed in good time and there are no gaps left in the child’s learning sphere.

As they speak so positively about Jika iMfundo one is tempted to ask whether there is any improvement that needs to be effected on the programme to make it excellent when it is rolled out. The response from both interviewees is that nothing has to be improved in the programme, especially in English. The view of the Principal is that planning should be done towards the end of the year, i.e. planning for the following year. Mrs Magwaza says there are many topics for Mathematics and there is not enough time to drill learners per lesson or per concept. However, this does not cast any doubt on the effectiveness of Jika iMfundo as a good programme. It will be a wonderful move if Jika iMfundo could be rolled out throughout the country and the Province.


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