SANRAL focuses on STEM boffins

Developing maths and science teachers is one of SANRAL’s fundamental contributions to uplifting South Africa.

At school level, it will help to train 44 teachers – one for maths and one for science – in each of the 22 participating schools.

The South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) is funding a chair in science, mathematics and technology education at the University of the Free State.

This new initiative aims to improve the quality of teaching in these vital subjects at schools in the province.

The endowment shows SANRAL’s commitment to growing young talent in disadvantaged communities, with a specific focus on the country’s long-term needs to grow proficiencies in maths, science and technology.

High school learners who benefit from this initiative will become part of a talent pool from which the next generation of engineers, teachers, artisans and technicians will be drawn.

School Change Project

The SANRAL Chair forms part of the University’s School Change Project, a flagship initiative launched by former vice-chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen.

The School Change Project addresses concerns about under-performance in South African schools, despite the fact that the country spends more of its Gross Domestic Product on education than any other African country. The project provides customised training and support to teachers and learners.

In 2011, the University of the Free State launched the project in 22 township and rural schools to strengthen the culture of teaching and learning in the selected schools.

An important aim of the project is to ensure that learners with potential, grow and excel in Free State rural and township schools rather than having to leave their local environment to attend schools in better- resourced communities.

The SANRAL Chair

The SANRAL endowment will enable the university to home-in on the gateway subjects of maths and natural science.

At school level, it will help to train 44 teachers – one for maths and one for science – in each of the 22 participating schools.

Student teacher interns will be assigned to the schools to assist teachers, and mentors from the School Change Project will monitor progress through weekly visits.

The interns will receive financial support to pursue undergraduate studies in maths and science education. In return, they are expected to make a commitment to teach these subjects for a period of four years after completing their studies.

The participating schools will have to demonstrate progress in their results and, depending on their achievements, more interns will be allocated and supported through funding and bursaries.

Each of the schools should become ‘a centre of excellence’ in maths and science, thereby retaining their highest performing learners.

The intention is to extend the project to other schools in the Free State.

At an academic level, the SANRAL-funded chair will enrol five doctoral and 10 masters’ students in science and mathematics education over a three-year cycle. It will also be responsible for research and academic publication.

Through this endowment, SANRAL will assist the University of Free State to remain a centre of academic excellence, producing educational leaders who can turn maths and science education around in disadvantaged schools throughout South Africa.

Author

Ray Maota

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