Meet Yonelwa Biko, one of Axium’s enthusiastic and energetic alumni. After finishing grade 12 and going onto university, Yonelwa came back to Axium and joined the team as a Maths facilitator. She’s currently studying towards a degree in Education and recently completed her teaching practical at her old high school where she first joined Axium’s programme. Read about her journey below:
Growing up I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I used to be fascinated by anything that involved mechanics and cars. It all changed sometime in high school. I think I was in grade 11 when I decided to explore my artistic side. I attended High School at Lutubeni and was fortunate to be picked as an Axium Ekukhuleni learner.
When I finished gr12 I didn’t have money for university registration so I got a job at a cellphone company. Early into the year I got a call from Axium to say that there was someone interested in paying for my registration. I ended up at the University of the Western Cape doing Bachelor of Arts, only to find out it was not what I had expected... My majors were Industrial Psychology, English and Ethics, your girl was doing a triple major!
I had a really tough university experience. In my first year I failed two modules. I was able to repeat them in my second year but lost my funding from NSFAS. The only accommodation I could find was more than 60km away from campus. I would travel by train, taxi, hitch hike or walk to get to campus. I was working really hard doing third year modules while trying to catch up on second year. All while travelling over 5 hours back and forth from campus daily and working on Saturdays as a tutor to pay for transport money. Due to personal issues and continued financial challenges I decided to de-register. I always say I’m not a quitter but at some point, I realized that this journey was not going to be completed by me. After deregistering I decided to move back home to Mqanduli to regroup and restructure.
Moving back was exciting and all, but lazing around since I had nothing to do was nerve racking. One day I woke up and decided to give Michelle Paxton from Axium a call. The call ended with her inviting me to the office to discuss a way to move past my problems.
When I arrived at the office, Michelle referred me to Clare ‘Nomsa’ Acheson who was then the Senior Schools Programme manager. I chatted with Nomsa about my journey from matric (2015) till my deregistration in 2019 end of February. Nomsa decided that with my skill set I could help assist with English at Axium Ekukhuleni and facilitate English, Mathematics and Physical sciences in the evening study groups at my previous high school, Lutubeni Senior Secondary School. She also introduced me to Zusive Mda, a career officer at Axium, who was of great assistance in helping me decide on my next step career-wise.
I enjoyed working at Ekukhuleni because I was assisting one of the ‘coolest people’ in Axium (David De Grunchy, English Teacher) who gave great support along with the whole senior schools’ team, and also the fact that I was helping in a programme I once attended. My experience at Ekukhuleni and the career counselling I got from Zusive helped me realize that I have always enjoyed teaching.
I decided to apply for a Bachelor of Education in Maths and English at Unisa and find a full time job on the side. I remember telling Michelle that I had discovered that I love teaching and I’ll be applying to study it. She gave me the “I told you so” vibe. When she was helping me apply for varsity back in grade 12 she advised me to consider teaching as I would make a good teacher. She even offered to pay for my application fee but I refused because I never saw myself as a teacher- I felt like my temper and patience would not be compatible for that line of work.
I got my acceptance letter at Unisa in November 2019, imagine the excitement. Axium Education had a job post open and fortunately for me there was a post that required matric only and God blessed me because I am now a maths facilitator at Axium. In all actual facts, my 2019 ended with a blast YEY YEY!
Life in general has been very exciting for me in 2020 but the highlight of the year was doing my teaching practice at my old high school, Lutubeni Senior Secondary School. Imagine going from not wanting to be a teacher to actually studying education and getting to work with your former teachers, epic right? I was dreading going to my old high school because I thought the teachers would not treat me as an aspiring teacher but more like their student. I am very proud to tell that none of my negative thoughts occurred- I was treated with respect by both learners and teachers. The teachers were so supportive and my mentor was there for me every step of the way.
I might have gone there for my own benefit but somehow I felt like I was giving back. I made it a point to teach and interact with learners the way I craved when I was in high school. I would like to believe that my strategy did work as my mentor had applauded the change I made in the topics I had taught.
Working and studying has not been that bad, it has been very good in fact. I am enjoying my work because it is related to what I am studying. And the studies...? Let’s just say your girl might graduate with a Cum Laude!