Vodacom jumpstarts science education

2012-07-25 14:41
Vodacom has launched a technology initiative to improve maths and science education in South African schools. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Vodacom has launched a technology initiative to improve maths and science education in South African schools. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Vodacom has thrown its weight behind a project to increase teachers' proficiency at maths and science in South African schools.

"Today we are handing over the Western Cape chapter of the Vodacom Mobile Education Initiative which is a programme for teacher development, particularly on how the teachers can integrate ICT [Information and Communications Technology] in the classroom," Mthobeli Tengimfene, executive head of the Vodacom Foundation told News24.

The programme is focused on maths and science education and particularly ensuring that teachers are equipped to teach the subjects effectively with appropriate equipment.

Tengimfene said that they had identified shortcomings with science teachers that could be addressed with a training programme.

"We have come across a number of teachers who have basic understanding of maths and science and we've got some teachers who know maths and science - the subject - but who do not have the pedagogic skills of how to teach it," he said.

Teacher training

According to a Mail and Guardian report in July, only 47% of schools are funded at minimum levels. This, despite the fact that R207bn was budged for education spending in the 2012/13 financial year and it is expected to grow to R236bn by 2016.

The draft National School Monitoring Survey found that the curriculum was uneven, learners were not given textbooks, and many schools could produce appropriate financial records.

"The basic education department is a partner to this project, so one of the basic interests they have is: 'How do we improve the proficiency in maths and science of the teachers that are involved?'" said Tengimfene.

The Foundation was in discussions with tertiary institutions to help train teachers.

"In Gauteng, we have talked with the University of Pretoria. They are doing the training of the maths and science teachers. In the Western Cape, we have started our discussions with the University of Stellenbosch," Tengimfene said.

He conceded though, that these efforts could not remedy the problems in education, and many schools that do not have basic infrastructure remain out of reach for programmes such as this.

Resource centre

"Our approach has been that we are not going to solve the whole educational crisis in the country. Through this project, we are developing a model that we think can be replicated to try and address all these other challenges.

"The schools that are on our programme should have basic necessities like electricity, most importantly. We have not yet rolled out this programme to schools that do not have facilities at all," he said.

There are 20 schools indentified as resource centres and these have been given a laptop that connects to the internet, a data projector, interactive board and printer.

The resource centre serves an additional 200 schools that are bussed in by the department of education to facilitate teacher training.

There are further negotiations underway for schools that want to expand the equipment they have received on the programme.

"We have given the schools the basic equipment that they need to be able to pursue this programme; now if they want to develop further, we are talking to other potential partners who can come in and provide other needs that go beyond the programme that we are offering," said Tengimfene.

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