Education in South Africa is often identified as ‘in crisis’ with maths and science education being a particular concern. In 2016, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report ranked South Africa 128 out of 138 countries for the quality of education in these fields.
The Khula Weekend School (KWS), founded by De Beers (a subsidiary of Anglo American), is an example of steps that have been taken to improve the output of maths and science students. Established in 1997, with the goal of helping Grade 10, 11 and 12's to advance their skills in math’s, science and English, this programme is aimed at students who aren’t performing at school but display high potential for academic achievement. Learners can sign up to attend extra lessons, giving them the opportunity to achieve the results that they need to apply to University. It's proving to be a successful idea, with the participating learners achieving higher grades year-on-year.
At the end of the 2015 school year, 20 students who attended the weekend school achieved a total of 43 distinctions for maths, English, accounting and life science subjects, and 62 distinctions across all subjects. Among the successful students was Siyabonga Dlamini who achieved 100% in maths, 98% in physical science and a total of six distinctions. He went on to study actuarial science at Wits University.
Since its inception 20 years ago, more than 80 volunteers – both De Beers' employees and other individuals – have offered their services to the programme. This has made a difference to the lives of more than 5222 learners who have benefited from the programme over the years.
The school now has centres in Soweto (University of Johannesburg), Vanderbijlpark (Vaal University of Technology), Alldays and Musina in Limpopo. The school is open to children of employees as well as children from selected disadvantaged schools around Soweto. Initially the school was free and open to children of employees as well as children from select disadvantaged schools around Soweto. Now, parents pay a minimal annual fee of R500 per child. This contribution not only demonstrates commitment of the family to be involved in the process, but it also enables the school to conduct other activities that require financial resources, such as field trips, math camps, open days, etc.
The programme exists today not only because of De Beers, but also because the KWS Committee actively sought the support of other organisations.