Arnold's Story

Arnold has a talent for mathematics, and a talent for bringing that joy to others. He wants to 'Pay it Forward' and share his skills with the youngest in his community, Lavender Hill.

As the youngest of five children, he was raised with two of his siblings by a single mom. When he was eleven his father came back into his life and he started seeing him. He went to Levant Primary School in Lavender Hill and left as the school's top achiever, moving to the prestigious Zwaanswyk Academy for two years before heading to Zwaanswyk High School in 2012.

Arnold showed promise even in the very first mathematics test at his new High School, scoring the highest mark in his class. The teachers loved him, particularly Mrs Nicolette Hoffmann, the physics teacher and deputy principal of the school at the time, who gave him extra lessons and opening her house to him for extra study, IT and internet access. He received the school's floating ​​Dux trophy as the top achiever and participated in the school’s RCL (Representative Council of Learners).

Arnold then applied to the University of Cape Town as a science major, with help and support from Ralph Bouwers at the Guardians of the National Treasure (GNT). During his first year he got a call from the Moshal Scholarship Programme asking if he would like to come for an interview to be funded by this scholarship. He replied with an excited "Yes" and went for the interview, ultimately gaining a full scholarship. All the scholarship asks of its recipients is to care for those less fortunate and to "Pay it Forward". Arnold is delighted, the scholarship is “a dream come true. I constantly have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming”.

As part of his mission to ‘Pay it Forward’ Arnold has been running a tutoring group to instil a love of mathematics. The Comprehension of Numbers Project, delivered with the GNT in Lavender Hill, offers primary school level fun and effective mathematics classes for young children.

Arnold explains his support for GNT in his own words, “The letters of the word “MATHEMATICS” can be arranged in 11! Ways (that’s 11 factorial, not just an exclamation mark). That’s 39,916,800 different combinations, or almost forty million ways. Whether the arrangement of letters makes an English word or not is irrelevant.”

Coming from Lavender Hill on the Cape Flats, known as the “gangland”, it’s not easy to develop a love of mathematics, especially when there is nothing driving it. Being exposed to violence, drug and alcohol abuse on a daily basis strips children of their aspirations, but love and support from others can keep them learning.

As a UCT student in the faculty of Sciences, a Moshal Scholar and being a permanent member of the Guardians of the National Treasure, Arnold is keen to invest back into his community after having been fortunate himself to go through school and University and gain a prestigious scholarship.

He says, “It is necessary to ‘Pay it Forward’ and to bring the light back into the community and help where it is most needed; and with my expertise, I want to help within the GNT’s pillar of Education. My way of ‘Paying it Forward’ is to run a two-week Comprehension of Numbers Project during the June vacation of 2017 and I will run this again in June 2018. I worked with three groups of primary school learners in the foundation, intermediate and senior phases. My aim with this project was to ensure learners understand the importance of numbers and why we learn about numbers. Therefore, very relevant topics like fractions, number patterns, the number system, factors and prime numbers are covered.”

Arnold worked with around ten learners in each phase, every weekday for two weeks. The overall attendance was fairly consistent, although some learners only came three times a week. At the very first session of the project he assessed the learners on how well they understand numbers in order to pitch the course level and pace appropriately. The assessment marks relate to how learners understand the content when he sees them for the first time, and how that changes over a two-week period, testing the same content as the first assessment.

His results are impressive showing a definite improvement during the course, especially in the foundation learners. They made the greatest improvement, from arriving only knowing numbers up to 30, to leaving knowing, counting and identifying numbers up to 50. The foundation phase scored a staggering 79% average at the end of the course and had the highest attendance rate at 95%.

Fractions were identified as a key topic in mathematics and a useful skill where it crops up on a daily basis in our lives. Arnold used innovative teaching with scarce resources, no whiteboards and only his mathematical knowledge. The space available for the courses was limited and with no specialist or dedicated space the project was run from the house of the Ralph Bouwers of the GNT, with a maximum attendance of 10 learners per phase, 30 in all. Another challenge was the lack of equipment such as a whiteboard, pens and stationery.

Arnold sums up his work with the Guardians of the National Treasure, “One might ask: what was achieved with this project? I paid it forward. Many of the learners still come to me for assistance with their homework and I am glad that I planted the seed of Mathematics and gave these children hope in a community crippled by poverty, drug abuse and daily shooting. Now let’s think back to the arrangement of the letters of the word “MATHEMATICS”, one could easily change the lives of 39,916,800 children and youth in South Africa just by “Paying it Forward” and planting the seed of education in their lives, but it all starts with one of us.”

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