Unorthodox teacher Kurt Minnaar resigned from his post at Eben Donges High School in Kraaifontein, where he has worked for the past nine years. He now wants focus on “bottling” his unusual teaching technique, which combines his creative talents, and make it available to anyone, through his Dreamer Education start-up.
Kurt’s unconventional teaching strategy has him dancing and rapping with his students in class while they learn mathematics. “School is dead without the arts. Arts is the attractive thing. If you take the arts away, there is just this shell,” he said.
Kurt’s career in education began after several failed starts in other fields. He is 33 years old and full of energy. “I didn’t do well in matric at all,” he said. “But I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t do well because now I can relate to kids that are struggling. I’m so grateful that I didn’t do well because if I had, then none of this would have happened.”
But while Kurt initially did not have success academically, his creative endeavours bore much fruit. A dance group that Kurt was a part of, Release, became South African champs in 2008. “We placed first in South Africa, then went on to be the first crew from South Africa to place top 12 in the World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas,” Kurt said. “I tasted success and I liked it and I thought, ‘Wow, is this what success feels like?’ And I wanted more. I wanted it in everything that I did.”
By that time, Kurt had picked himself up from failure several times.
“After failing and getting up and failing and getting up again, I decided, now I am going to work hard. Then I registered for teaching.”
Failure, however, was not quite done with him. Early on in his education career, he felt he was a “terrible” teacher. “When I started teaching, I had all these dreams of how I was going to change things, but the system just ate me up whole. I was just overwhelmed with work. I became the teacher I frowned upon – saying bad things to kids and not doing my work properly, but during all this time, I’m still doing my creative stuff.”
Kurt’s teaching career made an about-turn when he realised he should not compartmentalise his arts and teaching.
“I saw dancing and teaching as separate. People talk about maths and art as separate. When I was at school, I struggled at maths, but at the same time, I’m a dancer,” Kurt said.
He then applied his mind to finding practical ways of merging maths with his dancing, music and his videography skills.
He produced several raps and dances that taught maths concepts to pupils.
“I tested it out on the kids and it worked. First they thought I was crazy but then they loved it,” he said.
The concept quickly gained momentum and before long Kurt and his friends were producing high-quality videos and putting them online. Four of Kurt’s innovative videos can be viewed on his website
Initially, Kurt only used his method in his own classroom but he realised there was a demand for it. So, at the end of last year, he resigned from his post with the intention of promoting Dreamer Education full-time and revolutionising education in South Africa along the way.
“I think our leadership has let us down terribly. I’m going to do the things that I think they should be doing. I want to go to the mud-hut schools and spend time there. I want to go to Singapore and Finland and see what they are doing. I want to absorb and become part of the culture.”
Kurt has completed his honours in school management and has spent countless hours researching education. He says South Africa has a long way to go, but he plans to be part of the journey.
“I know how the system works. I did a lot of research. We need change. This is not going to solve the problem, but it is a step in the right direction”.