Geology graduate goes from rock bottom to changing lives with maths
While struggling to find work, she has devoted herself to helping pupils fall in love with numbers and equations
As a young girl, Ntokozo Maseko dreamt of wearing muggy boots and a helmet to work.
When she struggled with maths, it nearly killed her dream, but with the help of extra lessons, she realised her dream of becoming a geologist. Now, the geology graduate is helping children in her community conquer their fear of maths.
Maseko, 24, founded the Hasadiah Academy of Excellence, a nonprofit organisation aimed at helping children in Doornkop, on the outskirts of Middelburg, Mpumalanga.
“I don’t want kids to lose their dreams or change their careers because they can’t do maths. I don’t want maths to be the limitation to their dreams,” Maseko said.
The nonprofit focuses on developing English reading and writing skills for grades 4-7 pupils and mathematics for grades 7-12 pupils. The Hasadiah Academy of Excellence started with 14 pupils in January and has managed to grow to 35 pupils, with plans of expanding and teaching basic computer skills once they have managed to secure a permanent building.
“When I was in Grade 9, I struggled with maths. The teacher suggested I start extra maths lessons, but that cost about R100 per hour and my parents couldn’t afford that. A guy from our township decided to start extra classes for R50 per month, and he allowed us to attend even if we couldn’t pay.
"I attended and he made maths fun, and I began to fall in love with the subject. If it wasn’t for him, I would have abandoned my dream of being a geologist because of maths. I want to do that for others as well, to inspire hope and save dreams that may have been abandoned because of maths,” Maseko said.
Having completed her honours degree in geology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal last year, Maseko has struggled to find work. While searching for internships she established a maths and reading programme in a nearby community.
Her dream of becoming a geologist and working in a mine started at a “Take a Girl Child to Work” trip to the Samancor Chrome Mines when she was in Grade 8.
There Maseko met a group of mostly female scientists.
“[The women] showed me that just because I’m a woman I don’t have to limit myself, that I can dream big and achieve my dreams,” Maseko said.
Although now unemployed, she is devoted to helping schoolchildren fall in love with maths. She travels 20 minutes using public transport to host the extra maths and English lessons for pupils at a nearby primary school in Doornkop.
When the Covid-19 pandemic saw schools closing, she offered individual maths lessons for the high schools pupils who wanted to continue from her garage in Mhluzi.
One of those is Grade 11 pupil Mbali Magagula, who chose to continue with the extra maths lessons during lockdown.
Magagula, who dreams of becoming an astronomer, said the classes were fun and she saw Maseko as more than just her maths tutor.
“I have improved a lot, my marks have been great and she’s shown me that maths is not as hard as people portray. Before I was getting 40%, and now I’m actually getting 80% for maths. Because maths has been a difficult subject for me, continuing with the lessons even during Covid was important for me.
"I wanted to push myself to improve my marks. I’ve always struggled with maths. Now it’s changed; I’m actually great at maths now,” Magagula said.