STEM programme helps learners and teachers

An education programme focussing on the sciences has helped more than 2 200 Eastern Cape high school learners and teachers since its inception in eight years ago.

Learners in the Gate Project from Khumbulani High School, Ethembeni Enrichment Centre and Khwezi Lomso Comprehensive School.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Action Pipeline Programme (STEM PP) offered by the Nelson Mandela University has improved the academic lives of more than 2 200 Eastern Cape high school learners and teachers since its inception in 2010.

The project, run in partnership with in partnership with the South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL), consists of several educational programmes, all focused on increasing competence in STEM subjects.

The programmes target both learners and teachers.

Learners from various high schools in Nelson Mandela Bay participate in the Getting Ahead in Technology and Engineering programme and the Selected Learner programme.

Classes are held at the university’s Missionvale Campus in Port Elizabeth, as it is easily accessible to all communities.

The primary objective of STEM PP is to increase the number of Grade 12 learners achieving marks that are good enough to enter tertiary training in engineering and science.

SANRAL supports the programme through funding.

Enhancing understanding

“The aim of the courses is to enhance the learners’ understanding of and promote positive attitudes towards science and mathematics,” said STEM PP manager Isabel van Gend.

“Participants receive valuable extra tuition in career-related fields and are equipped with the necessary skills to operate in a higher education or science-related work environment.”

Nadia Petrus, a Grade 11 learner from Bertram High School in Bloemendal, participates in the Selected Learner and Getting Ahead in Technology and Engineering programmes, which has helped improve her maths and science marks immensely.

“The study guidelines helped me focus on my work and where to improve most of my marks,” she said.

Another Grade 11 participant, Michaela Aliva from St James (RC) Senior Secondary School in Schauderville, said she had been struggling with her physical science marks. “Now they’ve improved and I understand the work much better.”

Teachers enjoying it too

The Educator Toolbox programme has also yielded great results for learners and their instructors.

Uitenhage High School teacher Lee-Ann van Heerden said that physical and life sciences teachers from her school had attended various career exploration sessions, as well as workshops on teaching and learning strategies for Grade 10-12 physical and life sciences.

“Our learners now have a better understanding of theory,” she said.

As part of Getting Ahead in Technology and Engineering programme, the university also facilitates a 10-hour study method course at the start of the year, which includes summary and memory techniques.

Physical science and its mathematical concepts are the focus of the course.

The Selected Learner programme, which was introduced at 19 schools in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2016, is for learners who achieved at least 70% in maths and science in Grade 9. The focus of this programme is on experimental skills and understanding, as well as a career exploration in the fields of maths and science.

The agency also funds and manages a number of educational projects outside of STEM PP, including the awarding of bursaries and scholarships.