There is a quote that says ‘a good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others’. Jeremiah Moreo is testament to this, a teacher at Boithaopo High School in Kraaipan, in North West Province.
In this rural school, with its tiny laboratory without chemicals and the apparatus required for experiments, this maths and science teacher makes do. He spends most of his time in the classroom, explaining complex maths and science theories – and attending to individual pupils – even if it means sacrificing his family and leisure time. Moreo’s goal is to ensure that the students from Boithaopo are counted among the best.
When the bell rings at 2.50pm to signal home time, Moreo’s day is getting into full swing. He is warming up to dish out maths and science lessons for grades 11 and 12.
Most of the Grade 12 students, including those doing commercial subjects, are keen to pursue mainstream maths. “Out of 99, 44 are doing maths,” he says. “The remaining numbers are doing maths literacy.”
After school, pupils have about 30 minutes to clean their classrooms, and at 3.20 pm on the dot classes resume. By this time, other teachers and pupils who are not part of the study have left the school premises, which will be quiet – creating an ideal atmosphere for concentrated learning.
At first, Moreo travelled from his home in Mahikeng, approximately 80 kilometres away from the village, but his quest to be with his students forced him to relocate to Kraaipan.
“It is a sacrifice I had to make for the learners,” he says. “There is no motivation here and when learners reach their homes they just relax. Staying here also helped me to understand challenges that learners are faced with at home that affect their performance in the school setup.” He only travels to Mahikeng on some weekends to visit his family; otherwise, most of his time is dedicated to teaching.
MATHS AND SCIENCE
Moreo, who is also the deputy principal and head of department for maths and science, says subjects such as these need students’ full attention if they are to pass with flying colours. “If learners spend most of the time at home they forget what they have learned the previous day. The more time they spend on their books, the better.”
Teaching science without apparatus and chemicals can be a daunting task. “Sometimes it is difficult to get learners interested in the subject, because they do not see experiments demonstrated to them. We talk about colour change in some experiments but if they do not see it with their own eyes they become bored.”
But this does not deter his dream of seeing students from Boithaopo getting accepted at various universities and pursuing maths and science careers, and eventually becoming science professionals. This aim is his driving passion. “The fact that we do not have a proper laboratory is not going to stop us from achieving the results we need. Yes it is a challenge in the sense that some of the learners are not able to grasp some the things quickly, but we are putting in a lot of hard work to make maths and science enjoyable.
“If we as teachers cannot do it for these children then we will be failing in our duties,” Moreo stresses. Testament to his dedication is that he goes to these lengths without getting paid for working out of normal hours.
As far as work experience goes, he has been teaching across North West long enough to understand its challenges better. His career started in 2007 as a post level one teacher at Onkgopotse Tiro Comprehensive School in Ngaka Modiri District, where he taught until 2009.
FINDING A SOLUTION
In 2010 and 2011 he was the head of department for maths and science at Badibana Secondary School in Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District. He joined Boithaopo in 2012 as deputy principal and head of department for maths and science. And when he started at the school, he took the time to analyse the cause of poor results in maths and science.
“When I first came here I requested the records of the previous three years. I consulted with teachers to find out how learners were performing in maths and science subjects. I realised that somehow the system was failing, because the results were not good.”
Moreo found that the teachers were doing everything right but the time pupils spent on their books was too limited, and that they did not have adequate support from home. “We needed a new approach,” he explains. “Our problem was that learners did not get enough attention. The few minutes we spent during normal school hours were not enough. We needed to extend the time we spent with learners.”
Boithaopo is the only high school in the area, meaning there are many pupils and classes are full.