Imparting knowledge as a foundational base for young minds that
require sufficient nurturing to ensure future development.
Nobody at SANRAL has a job. Everybody has a role to play, though.
People are just too important to the organisation to just work here.
Constant internal and external educational opportunities to grow
into your role is our road.
The challenges facing mathematics teaching and learning in South Africa are common knowledge, and it makes sense that long-term solutions will require interventions during the primary learning phases. Also, to change the status quo, it is important to look at alternative ways to make a difference. The Science-for-the-Future (S4F) unit from the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State (UFS), in collaboration with several funders, are working towards strategies to demystify mathematics in the early school years.
The Family Math programme advocates innovative mathematics teaching and learning, by utilising a hands-on approach and activity material to improve understanding, and changing attitudes towards mathematics in the foundation and intermediate phases.
During the ‘triangular' project strategy teachers are trained at the UFS. In addition to integrating the project activities into the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (Caps) curriculum, they are expected to conduct parents' training sessions at their schools in the local community. This enables parents to become involved in their children's mathematics teaching and learning at school.
One of the key elements of the success of the programme is the fact that S4F also manufactures and issues the participating teachers with sufficient training material, such as everyday household material to be utilised in the classroom and at parent training sessions.
Although the primary focus of the Family Math programme is to demystify mathematics for learners, the active role that women have played since the inception of the programme in 2009, needs to be highlighted.
More than 98% of all Family Math teachers being trained at the UFS are women. During the training sessions they are empowered with mathematics content and teaching methodology to become leaders in the workplace. Many of them are involved in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) where they share their experience with fellow teachers. They are also becoming respected leaders in the community because they organise and conduct Family Math parent workshops.
Almost 90% of the attendees of the Family Math parent training sessions are women and during our visits to some of the sessions in the different provinces over the past few years it became evident that the impact of the Family Math programme stretches far beyond its original intention. We have encountered strong women that walked for more than an hour to attend a Family Math session – they will literally walk the extra mile for empowerment.
We have seen that these women are resilient, even shortcomings like illiteracy did not deter them from attending the training sessions. It was heart-warming to see how the other women assisted and supported them, living by the proverb that "empowered women empower other women". Many of the women at the sessions were of an advanced age, but they did not believe that it was too late to take up the opportunity for empowerment.
Since research indicated that parent involvement has a positive impact on learner achievement, especially if parents are involved in the learning activities of their children at home, the impact of women in society cannot be underestimated. Furthermore, since many women with small children and babies attended the Family Math parent training sessions it is anticipated that their impact will even be more powerful because their involvement will start earlier in the child's educational process.
During 2017, almost 20 000 project participants from 176 schools in predominately rural communities across the Free State, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape provinces, were actively involved in 17 Family Math projects. SANRAL's investment in the Family Math programme will certainly enhance the empowerment of women in South Africa and act as a catalyst for the Family Math programme as an agent for change.
Amaria Reynders is the Family Math Project Manager
of Science-for-the-Future, University of the Free State
The national roads agency's partnership with the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) since 2010 has continued to grow and deliver positive results.
The STEM in ACTION programme at the Missionvale Campus of NMU provides an opportunity for selected schools to encourage physical science learners and teachers to perform Caps-aligned experiments. Talented learners are identified and channelled into the Getting Ahead in Technology and Engineering (Gate) Project.
Schools are selected on the basis of past academic achievements in the relevant subjects, enthusiasm among the teachers and headmasters, and whether the school has an interest in improving the performance of its learners.
SANRAL supports the programme through funding and the bulk of the activities take place at the Missionvale campus of NMU.
As the programme director, I have been involved with the programme for seven and a half years and experienced it as an honour, pleasure and privilege to engage with learners from a range of socio-economical backgrounds. It humbles me to learn from some learners that, regardless of circumstances, they excel. I gained insight into how difficult it is for a marginalised child to be a successful scholar when there is minimal parental support and hardly any role models. The-ir resilience and commitment is noteworthy. When these learners achieve regardless of conditions, it is most rewarding and satisfying. It is a pity that irrespective of the success of these individuals, one learns how our education system lets learners down due to overcrowding and the quality and quantity of teaching offered to learners from Grade R to Grade 12.
My journey has taught me that no child can resist love. For me as a white "makhulu" I also experience the love from children we engage with. I feel very strongly that the racial divides in our country can be softened and remedied. Interacting with children from all races affords me the opportunity to show unconditional love and to assist with practical or theoretical problems. While involvement with this programme affords me the opportunity to give, I am very blessed that I have received so much affection, acceptance and unconditional trust from learners of the entire spectrum we interact with.
Isabel van Gend is the STEM in ACTION Programme Director
The Physical Sciences ICT Laboratory at the University of the Free State (UFS) utilises Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support effective science teaching and learning methodology. This initiative aims to encourage and enable more learners and students to enter into science-related studies and careers such as engineering and science teaching. In this quest, it is very important to have a strategy that takes into account the characteristics of the participants as well as the essential 21st century skills required for success.
At the ICT Laboratory, learners and students with the necessary potential are exposed to carefully planned curriculum-related physical sciences activity sessions. These sessions are underpinned by a philosophy of learning called social constructivism. This basically means that hands-on, minds-on activity sessions in a social context enable learners to construct their own understanding of science concepts. It also promotes the understanding of overarching concepts, rather than focusing on isolated facts and ‘text book' knowledge. With regard to the latter, different authentic experimental set-ups in the laboratory provide learners with opportunities to collect data in a real-life context to investigate science concepts.
A very important component of the learning process, according to social constructivism, takes place when learners interact with each other as well as the facilitators. This happens frequently in the ICT Laboratory when information is discussed, analysed and interpreted. It is said that "You only really understand the meaning of a concept once you have verbalised it."
The constructivist approach in the ICT Laboratory provides the ideal teaching and learning environment for the development of 21st century skills while addressing the needs of the 21st century learner. Since communication, collaboration, teamwork and cross-cultural understanding are essential skills in the modern workplace, the learners in the ICT Laboratory work in groups of four, with a high premium on diversity. It is no surprise that the groups are very efficient since 21st century learners who "collaborate amazingly well" and "have multicultural awareness and appreciation".
The most obvious essential skill for these learners is probably ICT Literacy and with digital technology at the heart of the ICT Laboratory activities, the benefits are self-explanatory. The 21st century learner, also referred to as the techno-clever generation, have no problem with exploring new types of ICT since they "often have higher levels of digital literacy then their parents or teachers".
"The driving force for the 21st century will be the capital of citizens," according to the Metri Group in the USA. It is therefore imperative that the intellectual potential of the youth of South Africa is developed according to the needs of 21st century demands. We are thankful that SANRAL is investing in the youth through the ICT Laboratory at the UFS.
We are also proud of our success in identifying and nurturing talented learners in the programme. Since the inception of the programme in 2009 and until 2017, 116 learners from the ICT Laboratory qualified and applied for the SANRAL Scholarship and 74 were successful. Three of the 2009 scholarship recipients have gone on to become a chartered accountant, an astrophysicist and a mechatronic engineer.
Dr Cobus van Breda
Programme Director of Science-for-the-Future at the University of the Free State
The highlight of being part of the STEM in ACTION programme is seeing the learners exit at the end of their three-year stint with us. They leave equipped, empowered, informed and enthusiastic about their future post-matric.
It is wonderful to be part of that process, to provide moments where learners realise their worth, capacity and ability both personally and in their academics.
Thank you, SANRAL for facilitating those moments and this process by allowing us, as the STEM in ACTION team, to do what we do. We are proud to say that we do this with commitment, creativity and flair and it is so encouraging when we can influence not just the learners who are on the programme, but their educators, principals and parents as well.
Tarin Roberts is the STEM in ACTION Operations Manager
Working for STEM in ACTION has helped me realise my dream of helping learners from disadvantaged areas. It really is so rewarding to help learners understand concepts both big and small. From teaching them how to use a computer mouse to helping them to understand complex scientific concepts, it all makes a long day at work worth it.
A lot of the learners we see lack confidence and are shy to answer questions when they first arrive at STEM.
Seeing them develop over time and become more confident in their understanding and in the fact that it is okay to make mistakes shows me that we are making a difference in their lives and motivates me to work harder to develop these learners.
Vicki Campbell is a lecturer for STEM in ACTION
Family Math and Science is all about bringing together teachers, parents and the learners involved, and demystifying mathematics and science in doing so. The facilitators of Family Math train teachers that have been identified by officials of the Department of Education, at the University of the Free State. The teachers then go back to their schools and use the colourful and very relevant material to teach their learners mathematics in a hands-on and fun way. (The learners were so excited every term to see the new material that the school received!)
For me as a teacher it was wonderful to have activities with the necessary material available without any extra effort!
I would like to emphasise that Family Math definitely contributed to the quality of my teaching in the classroom and the cooperation between parents and myself, and because of that, the learners benefited from it because mathematics was experienced as something that we all can master and not only a selected few. All this is made possible because of the sponsorship of SANRAL and the cooperation of Family Math!
Susan de Jager, Foundation Phase Family Math Coordinator
I love the moments when you see the learners understand the work – that moment the light turns on, when puzzled faces turn into smiles. Sometimes this takes some creative on-the-spot explanation and for me that is awesome as I didn't know I could be that creative.
Walking a path with them over a period of three years allows you to observe the learners turning into young adults and to see how each of their personalities develops over time.
Martinus J. Sonnekus is a Lecturer & SLP Coordinator at STEM in ACTION