Excitement for Funani Esther Shezi as she

It was the triumphant culmination of a long hard road for Ms Funani Shezi when she graduated with a Master’s degree in Education.

Shezi suffered hardships such as a lack of finance, poor research working conditions, long distance travelling and the death of her sister during her studies but she gritted her teeth and refused to give up, adamant she would graduate.

Asked about her research she said: ‘I looked at the experiences of Grade 4 learners studying mathematics using English as a second language after using isiZulu as their mother tongue in the foundation phase.

 ‘For three years learners acquired mathematics knowledge in isiZulu but would not use that knowledge in their future learning as most of the counting is usually done in English.’

Shezi found the Grade 4 learners had a problem in understanding English while learning mathematics. Data from the test scores revealed that the learners performed better in the isiZulu version than in the English equivalent of the same test.

Her research was based at the Nkandla school where she teaches.

To attend classes at UKZN, she had to drive 400km a day often braving muddy, slippery roads and driving at night.

There is no electricity supply in Nkandla so Shezi bought a solar panel to partly solve the problem. Previously, she used her car battery to charge her laptop.

‘During cloudy days I was unable to use the laptop and in winter too, the sun was not strong enough to produce power through the solar panel. I woke up at mid-night and using candlelight, I would do assignments on paper because I could not use the laptop.

‘To add to the difficulties I had to use water from the nearby river for drinking and washing. I needed healthy food for my diet so I laid out a vegetable garden to get fresh produce.’

With her meagre salary and added expenses, Shezi made her own dresses and did beadwork for herself. She also had to deal with the death of her sister and take on the task of raising her sister’s children.

Shezi’s youngest son Mlondolozi is proud of his mom and hopes to follow in her footsteps. Her other son, Mzwandile, said to her, ‘Congratulations on your success and your achievements, this will not help only you, but the whole nation, as South Africa needs more people like you who believe in education.’

She expressed her heart-felt gratitude to her family and friends and her supervisor Dr Lokesh Ramnath Maharajh.

Her advice to other students is: ‘Work hard for success. Brighten the corner where you are. If you show love and respect to the community, they will also love and respect you. Strive for success always.’