'Their hope to escape poverty is through education': How a local NPO tutored over 240 students using Whatsapp

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"...they don't really have other means"
"...they don't really have other means"

A non-profit organisation (NPO) by the name of Dub's Mathematics Programme (DMP) recently launched an online school for underprivileged scholars while simultaneously being proactive in addressing the youth's career guidance issues - and all on one of the world's most popular social platforms: Whatsapp.

With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic and the migration to online schooling, DMP saw a need for a "good, affordable, and an easily accessible education tool", specifically aimed at students in rural communities who have no access to Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

With the help of 20 tertiary-level volunteer tutors, the DMP team decided to open a Whatsapp school, called the Quarantine E-Learning Programme for grade 11 and 12 scholars from disadvantaged communities.

Read: 'This opportunity was seized from me': Tertiary students reveal virtual struggles to keep dreams alive

246 students in 13 days

Scholars in rural communities have limited access to the different kinds of technology and due to the lockdown level 4 school closures and regulations, it became harder for these scholars to get a decent education using online learning platforms.

Given that Whatsapp itself is free, slightly more data-friendly and appears to be the most accessible and used social platform in rural communities, opening a school on the platform seemed to be the appropriate choice.

"From 12 – 25 July we tutored 246 Grade 11 & 12 learners via WhatsApp for free," the DMP team told Parent24

Mthandeni Sithole, who is the founder of Dub's Mathematics Programme, says that the idea for the organisation was motivated by the poor performance at his alma mater and the realisation that the pandemic undoubtedly brought additional challenges. 

"At my former high school, the maths pass rate was really low so I realised that [scholars] do need extra assistance."

"Most of the parents [in rural communities] don't have any formal education so it becomes hard for them to assist," Sithole explains. "That's how the programme started."

The subjects being taught included Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Accounting and English FAL which were all being taught across 24 Whatsapp groups, divided by their March school results to "address the struggles of these learners more effectively".

"We were using WhatsApp voice notes (VN's), PDF notes to teach learners and they were given practice exercises daily. There were 20 volunteer tutors who are all at a tertiary level. Some of these learners wouldn't have done any studying during the schools' closure had our programme not assisted them," DMP told Parent24.

'Graduates' skills do not match the occupation's requirements'

In addition to providing academic assistance through the Quarantine E-learning programme, DMP also recognises that the lack of career guidance available for the youth is a major hindrance in helping them make informed decisions about their futures.

To that end, DMP was able to host the very first Whatsapp Career Expo, where they presented scholars with different career paths and employment opportunities, and invited different organisations and graduates to provide insight.

"Most learners from rural communities are not yet exposed to different Careers out there," DMP explains. "Some are not well informed about the occupations which are currently in demand in SA. This increases the unemployment rate when graduates' skills do not match the occupation's requirements."

"We believe it is very important that they understand and choose careers which are in line with the needs of the 4th industrial revolution."

Also read: As many as 750,000 children have dropped out of school during the pandemic

'One day we are also going to give back'

Many scholars have expressed gratitude for the guidance and support provided by Dub's Mathematics programme.

"We really appreciate our teacher for coming up with this idea," one student wrote. "We learned a lot today and if [our teacher] didn't sacrifice [their] time creating this group, we would not have gained this knowledge"

"We are also emotional because we didn't pay anything. One day we are also going to give back to those who are not financially stable," wrote another student.

"For most [underprivileged communities], their hope to escape poverty is through education and they don't really have other means," Sithole says. "So if we can empower them through education, they will be able to realise their dreams."

Join the Dub's Mathematic's Programme on Whatsapp at 0761920315 or 0711066809.

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