R25m high-tech ECape schools project prepares pupils for digital age

BY NICKY WILLEMSE - OCTOBER 20, 2016

Ten Nelson Mandela Bay high schools are set to benefit from a five-year, R25m project, which will make extensive use of modern technology, to improve the quality of teaching, learning and pass rates at disadvantaged schools, and prepare learners for the highly-digitised, sprint-paced 21st century working world.

The project, a partnership between the Zenex Foundation and the Eastern Cape Department of Education, was launched in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

A talk by trends analyst, journalist and former fashion editor Dion Chang on the age of digitisation – and how young people should prepare themselves for a working world where change is the only constant – was a fitting way to launch the new high-tech maths, science and English project, called Sakha Ikamva, which means “building the future”.

“What skills are needed for a new world order?” said Chang, who was the keynote speaker. “The two most important skills that are missing are critical thinking and problem solving … We are seeing a new HR mantra: Hire for attitude, retrain for skills.”

The project was introduced in April at the 10 schools, namely Bethelsdorp, Cowan, Chapman, Ethembeni, KwaMagxaki, Masiphathisane, Motherwell, Molly Blackburn, Newton Technical and Westville high schools. 

“Our research has shown that we need to address a number of challenges in the way maths and science is taught in order to make a tangible difference in the outcomes for learners,” said Thandi Orleyn, Chair of the Zenex Foundation.

The project involves training and coaching school management, training and coaching teachers in subject content and pedagogy, and providing direct support to learners, using technology-linked interventions.

Implementing partners include Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Unit, which has developed a technology-linked teaching and learning model, aligned with the CAPS curriculum for maths and science for Grades 10 to 12, which is available on laptops for teachers (as a teaching resource), tablets for selected learners (as a personal, after-school tutor) and desktop computers (to form a resource lab at the schools).

Packaged as TouchTutorTM, the model includes video lessons, animated PowerPoint presentations, science experiments, a calculator support video, self-assessment with immediate feedback, past exam papers and interactive language support in six indigenous languages.

“It is an offline model, providing learners with 24/7 access to material,” said GMMDU head Prof Werner Olivier, who has tailor-made the model for South Africa’s challenging educational environment.

Among the group of learners who themselves presented the TouchTutor technology at the launch, was Cowan High Grade 12 learner Viwe Tywakadi, who described her tablet as a “portable learning book”. “All topics in Grade [10, 11 and] 12 maths are covered.”

Continuing the high-tech approach, New Leaders Foundation (NLF) is providing schools with an information management system, which synthesises and analyses data. “it can be used as a management tool to pinpoint problems,” said NLF consultant Andile Zuma.

Other implementing partners include Partners for Possibility, Tsebo Education Network and English specialists Sally Potgieter and Angela Schaffer.

Mandla Makupula, MEC for Education in the province, described the project as “a very important partnership at a very crucial time in the education space in South Africa”.

The prestigious launch event for the project took place at Port Elizabeth’s Protea Marine Hotel, and was attended by Zenex Foundation trustees and officials from the Eastern Cape Provincial and District Education Departments.

The Eastern Cape project is the forerunner for similar Zenex Foundation projects, which are being planned for KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng.

 Images:

Main pic: LEARNING DEVICE … Sisipho Zamxaka (middle), a Grade 11 learner at Masiphathisane High School in Port Elizabeth, gives Mervyn Patrick (left), Sally Potgieter and Robert Stephens a quick lesson in how the TouchTutorTM maths and science programme on her tablet works. TouchTutorTM was developed by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Unit.

Pic 2: Trend analyst Dion Chang was keynote speaker at the event.

Pic 3: Mandla Makupula, MEC for Education in the Eastern Cape, speaks at the launch.