Evelyn Moabelo’s enduring love for mathematics was nurtured by her high school teacher Ms Modibane, who put in countless hours to help her achieve better marks for the subject she felt defeated by.
“She restored a sense of hope and believed in me,” says Evelyn, adding that learning to enjoy maths showed her how, with enough practise and support, she could conquer any challenge she initially saw as insurmountable.
With Modibane’s guidance, Evelyn ended up passing matric with a distinction in maths, as well as life orientation.
Celebrated as one of the top three academic performers throughout her school career, Evelyn had learnt the value of education and constant learning from her mother, whose own limited education had prevented her from finding decent employment. Her mom always pushed her to study harder so that she could be awarded a university bursary. “I was always a student who loved learning and had a positive attitude towards education,” Evelyn says.
Her mother’s ambitions for her were realised when Evelyn was accepted by the University of Cape Town to pursue a BSc in environmental and geographical sciences. Evelyn chose the course because she liked the aspect of human geography, which linked the Earth’s natural processes with social issues. She also knew that she wanted to follow a people-orientated career in which she could play a part in improving the livelihoods of those around her.
Initially assisted by her grandmother and two uncles to pay the university registration fees, and then by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme for her course tuition, Evelyn found out in the second semester of her first year that she had received a scholarship from the Moshal Scholarship Programme.
“I was so thrilled and excited to be selected for a scholarship without having even applied for it,” says Evelyn. “I always look back and acknowledge that this was God working and that He blessed me with a family that was so generous to believe in me and provide me with funding for my studies.”
When she relocated to Cape Town for her studies, Evelyn at first longed for home and the family she was so close to back in Hammanskraal, near Pretoria. She spoke to students in second and third year, who shared their own difficulties in adapting to varsity life, as well as how she could improve her academic performance despite being homesick. “I had to understand that as homesick as I was, I was the one who chose to study in Cape Town and knew that my family couldn’t afford to constantly get me home,” says Evelyn. “I had to be a big girl and satisfy myself with speaking to my parents on the phone.”
She graduated from the institution in 2013, but like many recent graduates struggled to find employment in, or related to, her field of study. About six months after graduating, Evelyn attended a three-month sales training course through youth employment accelerator Harambee, which secured her a job with FNB as a sales consultant. But after working at the bank for 18 months, Evelyn realised that a sales environment was not one in which she felt she could thrive.
It was then that the 25-year-old decided to combine her enthusiasm for maths with her firm belief in the significance of learning and apply for teaching bursaries and posts to become a teacher in the subject she had long been so fond of. It was through the Thandulwazi Maths and Science Academy, which operates through St Stithians College in Johannesburg, that Evelyn got the chance to study towards a postgraduate certificate in education through Unisa. Specialising in maths education, Evelyn worked as a class assistant teacher at St Stithians College during her post-graduate studies. There she had the opportunity to observe experienced educators, teach once a week, and work as a subject tutor.
Now employed at Hoërskool FH Odendaal in Pretoria, she aims to inspire pupils through maths, just like her Ms Modibane did.
She also enjoys working with children because they are lively and show a deep appreciation for the effort put in for their benefit.
As for her plans for the future, Evelyn would like to continue teaching and focus on training and development in primary schools, where she wants to offer problem-solving training. A lifelong student, she also plans to obtain a Master's in mathematics teaching.
Says Evelyn: “What makes me unique is that I am an individual with a can-do attitude to life and I always strive to learn more, do better and improve myself in both knowledge and skills.”