It’s been a rough few months for Rhoda and Murison Kotzé of the M&R Math and Reading Centre in Hermanus. Not only did they have to move all their operations online within a week when the hard lockdown was announced back in March, but Rhoda was also very pregnant at the time and gave birth to a bonny boy, John-Murison, on 2 June.

Rhoda Kotzé of the Hermanus Math and Reading Centre with baby John-Murison.

“Many of our teachers are retired and not as tech-savvy as the youngsters; they had to find out for the first time how Zoom works!” laughs Rhoda. “Then there was the problem that some of our learners didn’t have internet access and their lessons had to be conducted on the phone.”

Rhoda says adapting to online learning was very overwhelming for the learners, too. “Even with the school teachers trying to keep their pupils on track by sending them work to do from home, they weren’t always available to explain it to them if they were having problems. Keeping the youngsters motivated was also a challenge, as they need the stimulation of personal interaction. That’s why we kept our learners in the same groups when doing Zoom sessions, so that they could ‘see’ their friends.”

While the schools were closed, Rhoda says they were able to schedule the tutorials throughout the day instead of only during after-school hours – but there was a downside to that, too. “Normally I would use my mornings to prepare, but suddenly we were working all day long and I had to do the prep work in the evenings, while also looking after a newborn. I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard in my life!”

This dedication of Rhoda, Murison and their team has no doubt provided a lifeline for many a parent and learner during these challenging times. When learners started returning to their classrooms in June, they were able to reopen their centre and resume in-person tutorials (with all safety protocols being followed), although Rhoda says many parents decided to rather let their children continue with the online tutorials. M&R also provides support to homeschoolers, either in-person or online.

M&R celebrated their 10th birthday last year. The Math and Reading Centre was envisioned by the couple when they returned from teaching in South Korea and Taiwan. In May 2009, Rhoda and Murison identified the need for an education centre in Hermanus and decided to open a math and reading facility that would address the various numeracy and literacy needs of school-going learners in the area.

Their initial focus was on providing lessons in mathematics, English, Afrikaans, spelling, phonics, and reading with comprehension. Now, a decade later, their teaching portfolio also includes science and accounting, short courses in study skills, as well as parenting and teaching skills through the Love & Logic® institute, which they launched in 2016. All these courses have now resumed and, with end-of-the-year exams looming, they are busier than ever before.

Throw four-month-old John-Murison, who is still being breast-fed and accompanies his mom to the centre every day, into the mix and it’s even more astounding that Rhoda appears so calm and relaxed. But she clearly has a calling and says she loves working with children.

Murison and Rhoda share a holistic vision for education and their centre has helped more than a thousand learners improve their marks, confidence and skills during the past decade. For more information on M&R’s courses and to read what parents and learners have to say about the centre, visit www.m-n-r.co.za.

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