EMBRACING MY DREAM
Embracing My Dream
She is young. She is still at university. But she has been running her own company, AK Maths & Science Academy for five years now and she is planning to fly with it. Who is she? How did it all start, when so many are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table? This is her story.
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“Mondli, we have a staff meeting but I want the students to get all their notes. You are a good and eloquent. Please take this text and dictate the notes to the class,” said my Geography teacher.
That is how it all started. I gained confidence standing in front of the class patiently dictating notes to my classmates. The teachers said I was bright. Some students came to me to get clarity on some coursework they did not understand. So, there were times when I was in front in the classroom teaching, when our teacher was away. I actually taught and explained concepts to others. That enabled me to gain experience in imparting knowledge to other students. I also had the privilege of being Head Girl in my school and teachers trusted me a lot. I was a keen learner and sailed though Matric in 2015.
The year 2016 saw me start tertiary education at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. I have been pursuing a course in Biomedical Sciences. I believe I have always been a scientist at heart, wanting to know the why, how and when of everything. When one is studying subjects like chemistry, physics or biology, one gets a thorough knowledge of the world one lives in. It has helped me develop scientific knowledge and theory about everything I come across. I believe this is crucial to our future and it presents a bigger scope for job opportunities as science is used to find solutions to enormously complex problems. But in it all, I have not lost my faith. I believe in the beginning, God was. He is the Alpha and the Omega.
As soon as I started university, I realised I needed to make some income. I knew my Mom would not be able to raise all the money I needed for fees, transport, books and some pocket money. I did not want her to have headaches as I knew she wanted me to attend university and succeed. She already had been working so hard towards that.
The breakthrough happened through a cousin who worked at a certain school. She knew how capable I was in Maths. One day she approached me and said,
“Aku, would you be available to tutor some Grade 12 students who need to rewrite Mathematics?”
“Sure, I’d love that,” I said filled with excitement that an opportunity was providing itself so quickly. I learned that I would earn R150.00 per hour and there were five students ready to start. I enjoyed teaching. It came naturally to me. I reckoned it was in the bloodline and was passed on to me by my Mom who used to teach in Zimbabwe before she relocated to South Africa. I applied for more tutoring jobs and was lucky to work for a few companies until I was invited to work for a Home School where I taught primary school classes as well as some Grades 8 and 9 classes. The lady in charge offered me R2000.00 per month. I felt that was not much considering the amount of work, where I took more than my fair share of classes. What upset me was when she began to take advantage of me. I was young and compliant and she started abusing her power over me by not paying me my dues. This went on for a while, then I said to myself;
“Honestly Aku, you do not deserve this. If this lady can get all these clients, so can you.” The thought was quite attractive. So, I decided ‘No pay, no work!’ I stopped going to work. The following day, I was beset by endless phone calls from the parents of the students I had been teaching.
“Ms Mpande, what’s up? How can you leave our children stranded? What happened?”
“Well Ma’am, I was not being paid. I need remuneration for my services.”
“We are sorry to hear that Ms Mpande, because we pay good fees for our children to learn. And, our children really like the way you teach. They are happy with you. We don’t want to lose you.”
“I hear you Madam, but I cannot teach for nothing. I need to make a living.”
“We understand. Are you willing to teach our children on a part time basis from home? We don’t want to lose your services.”
My good Lord! Luck was smiling on me. I had not gone hunting. Those students made my first client base. I enjoyed teaching so much that I became a medium between parents and their children. Since I tutored at home, that allowed me to communicate with the parents as well. I observed that some young people were very distant from their parents who did not know what they were doing at school or how well. That gave me a chance to communicate with the parents whenever I needed their input. I got to know the students so well I understood their anxieties issues and tried to to deal with those. I ended up taking a short course in psychology to enable me to understand the students better and I was better able to deal with some of the teen and youths problems.
I soon had more and more clients making inquiries as parents and students passed the information about me. The more the client base grew, the more work I had in my hands. My Mom had actually not been keen on me doing business. She expressed skepticism in the most overt way. The Lord is indeed my good Shepherd. I am not in want and have never been. I trust Him absolutely and He is faithful.
“Moe, hayi, hayi-bo! (No, no!) You have embarked on a very demanding course and I just don’t see how you can cope. I don’t want your studies to be compromised.”
“But Ma, remember how I used my pocket money when I started High School? I always ordered snacks and sold them to other kids in my class. Remember how I even contracted kids in other classes to sell stuff for me, and I would pay them.”
“That was then Moe!”
“Yes, Ma. But, remember how during the initiatives run by the school, I would set up a table with make up kits during Valentine’s Day or some other Youth Day to paint people’s faces for R50 or so? Remember how much I brought home at times? Over R1000. You did not have to provide pocket money for me and I never slackened in my school work. I was always among the top five.”
Mom smiled and said, “This is different Moe! You are no longer in Grade 8 or 9. This course is exacting.”
“That time you allowed me to try it for a term Ma. I didn’t compromise my work. Please let me do it for a semester. If I perform badly, I shall stop.”
I thank God my Mom did appreciate the business acumen I had. Because I continued to do well. Dad then said,
“Moe, I think it would be a great idea if you register a company. It will give your work authenticity and depth of scope. Sure. I wanted my work to be taken seriously, and I really needed to open a business account. That would enable me to get more and more clients. So, AK Maths and Science Academy was registered in June 2016.
As my client base grew, I could not cope on my own, so I hired people to help me. I started with a staff complement of five members that I trained so that every child would continue to be special and important. AK Maths & Science Academy is a progressive method of teaching mathematics and Science. Our unique method of integrating personal contact from tutors with interactive computer lessons sets us apart from other maths tuition services. Our lessons are authored by highly competent mathematics teachers who interpret the South African curriculum and convert it into a user friendly and easy to understand format. Lesson content is regularly updated according to changes in the official curriculum document. Our system provides learners with the opportunity to work through the curriculum at their own pace, and at their own level of ability. Learning is reinforced and evaluated both on the computer and through worksheets, which are done in writing and assessed by the tutors. With better understanding comes improved marks and improved confidence. The end result is a positive, motivated, independent learner who has the opportunity to choose the future he or she wants.
There were some challenges along the way. There were times when I lost staff when one or two tutors who felt they had become so good that they left without notice and did not care about the consequences to the students nor for the company. But, on the whole I was blessed to have clients who paid fees in a timely manner. The company also did not incur many expenses, except for transport to the various homes. AK Maths and Science Academy is a Mobile tutoring company where we tutor in the comfort of the student’s home, at one’s suitable time, and at an hourly rate. So, our motto is, ‘Flexible and Convenient’.
My fervent dream is to grow the Home School to a proper school, not just a tutoring academy. I have a dream that maybe in the next two years I shall get property in a central complex as my students are spread out across Johannesburg. Then I shall convert that to a school that I shall register, not just a Home school. I shall then market it accordingly. Even as I study hard to attain my degree this year, I continue to embrace my dream.
Mondliwethu Akua Mpande is a young entrepreneur, Founder and Director of AK Maths & Science Academy in Johannesburg. She is 24 years old and hopes to complete her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences this year.