OPINION | 'Hopeful maths' to raise the matric pass rate

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"The long term impact is felt like many students from public schools don't finish their degrees in record time." Photo: Getty Images
"The long term impact is felt like many students from public schools don't finish their degrees in record time." Photo: Getty Images

Lets, for a moment, delve into what I call hopeful maths. Hope in one equation.

We solve 4x : Model= Maths + Parents – Hunger.

Now, this model is certainly not part of any curriculum nor is it backed by mathematicians, it does, however, hold some truth. The story of South Africa's school maths, accounting and science are well known.

It isn't one we can take pride in. Our performance as a nation is below par. We are second from the bottom in the international league table, and perform worse than some fellow African countries who spend less than we do on education.

80% of grade four pupils in South Africa are illiterate, and the poor parental involvement factor is perhaps one of the biggest challenges presenting this unfortunate reality in the country.

Read: How to help your children with maths you don't understand

Parental participation is a significant element that has been proven to potentially enhance a child's educational performance. This is factual for several reasons, but chief among them is the familiarity the children have with their parents, which allows them to not only receive information but store it and learn faster.

As mandated by the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996, parents should have their voice in the education of their children. They should have close cooperation with educators to be able to track the performance of their children. This is vital to create an ecosystem conducive to the child's learning.

Apart from the government's legislative intervention through the act, private participation in encouraging these ecosystems is key. As thus, we have introduced an invention titled System and method of managing the delivery of educational courses to studentsIt is a long description, with a very simple focus.

To ensure learners, parents and teachers elevate the pass rate. As cogs in a large machine, these three stakeholders need to be perfectly aligned to bring about the right type of movement for the numbers to the clock. We call it - Wesolve4x.

In 2018 we introduced a Parents Masterclass where we educate parents on how to get involved and understand the Maths Annual Teaching Plan (ATP). Pupils don't necessarily have a maths challenge, but parents are not empowered to ensure learning continues at home. It's a critical factor in the equation.

During our masterclasses, we found out that most parents unequally prioritised their children's uniform and fees, much higher over assisting them with homework and perhaps what it is that the pupils should be guided towards learning.

Our research found that most parents were in the low-income threshold, or grant earners. They spend their money on food, transport, alcohol and clothing. Education was their last priority. It is the hunger agency coming into full play.

I have been a street vendor for the past 18 years, and the impact school feeding schemes have had in ensuring learners come to school is significant. As such we have developed an actuarial model, based on the insurance principle, where we provide maths extra lessons with grocery benefits.

In the adopted school, all learners and parents are tutored. Grocery Benefit includes 12.5kg Pride maize meal, 5kg Spekko rice, 2kg brown sugar, 2l cooking oil and one can of Koo baked beans.

The Wesolve4x model has increased parental attendance to our parents master class because of the grocery benefit while we tutor their learners' maths on weekends.

Parents are empowered to understand that their children don't struggle with maths, but specific topics in maths. They are therefore able to get involved and build a strong relationship with the educator.

The real impact is seen in our adopted schools: Eden Ridge Secondary School, Mpontsheng Secondary School, Katlehong High School, Eketsang Secondary School, Abraam Hlope Primary School, Thabotuna Primary School and Kwa Dukathole Secondary School where we are currently tutoring 3562 learners and 3500 parents in our project. We are targeting 1 million learners and parents to help elevate the pass rate and end hunger - all in one sentence.

Learners and their parents will benefit greatly from our programmes, however, to reach more and therefore teach many, this model needs to be scaled.

Must read: We need to encourage girl learners to embrace STEM subjects

Corporate partnerships with WeSolve4x will help us do this in this quest for the #HelpElevateThePassRate campaign. As a product of the public school system, I know and understand how the shortcomings of this system have long term consequences on a pupil.

I remember how a teacher was present at school but didn't teach us for 6 months. When the district officials visited they would group our bundles of 30 learners and we would write 6 months worth of work in a week. Then our book would come with a department of education stamp, signed that the work is done.

This, unfortunately, in many of our public schools is common to practise. My parents and many others didn’t know this was happening. They were not empowered to understand what their vital role as stakeholders was, to hold both the school and themselves accountable in my learning.

The long term impact is felt like many students from public schools don't finish their degrees in record time. My 3-year Actuarial Science degree took me 5 years, and many other students are in the same boat.

This costs the country and taxpayers more, considering the @#feesmustfall protests. Most of the demonstrating students are struggling to complete their degrees because of injustice in the basic education system we suffered. But when 2000, or even a million parents are empowered in a school, no ghost teachers will exist, nor teachers who don’t teach at all.

Our stakeholders; learners, teachers and parents will hold each other accountable. We are taking parents back to the classrooms to safeguard our future #Wesolve4xParentsMasterClass.

We want to strengthen public schools and restore society's pride in them. The classroom remains a vital tool to change South Africa. But it will take educating parents on how to get involved in ensuring the nurturing of our future Astronauts and Metaphysisists, while at the same time systematically addressing hunger at home and in our communities.

Tsietsi Ngobese is an Actuary and Chief Executive Officer at Wesolve4x Consultancy (pty) ltd, and an Executive Member at The Association of South African Black Professionals (ASABA).

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