Local teachers hope for maths, science matric lift-off

Maths and science teachers in previously disadvantaged public schools in KwaZulu-Natal who’ve trained on the Vula Programme have a strong chance of their pupils achieving excellent results in this year’s grade-12 maths and science exams.

The programme’s co-ordinators hope that at least 50% of its teachers will achieve a class average of 10% or higher above the provincial average.

The provincial average for maths last year was 50.6% and for science, 74.2%. Pupils from about 50 public schools from the Umgungundlovu (PMB and Midlands) and Pinetown districts are being taught by teachers trained on SA’s only residential private-school-based in-service training and development programme for maths and science teachers.

10%-or-higher target

The Vula Programme, launched 18 years ago and part-funded by the Datatec Education and Technology Foundation, is cautiously optimistic, based on year-on-year success, that the quality of its training and the hopes and aspirations of its teachers will pave the way for the 10%-or-higher target to be met.

“Success in maths and science is critically important if we want to grow the pool of young people pursuing STEM [science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine] careers. It is vital that we equip our teachers with the necessary skills and confidence in these subjects so that they can support and encourage their learners to excel,” says Wilna de Villiers of Datatec. “The Vula Programme makes a meaningful impact at grassroots level across rural communities it serves.”

Teachers attend Vula programme training and workshops. These are intended to enhance existing skills and develop confidence, particularly in the subjects maths and science. Pictures: Supplied

In last year’s NSC examinations, Umthoqotho School (one of the Vula-affiliated schools) recorded an astonishing 100% physical-science pass rate, including three distinctions and four Bs; and more than half the pupils achieved “quality passes”, above 60%. In another instance, Emzamweni School, also under the mentorship of Hilton College’s Vula Programme, recorded a 97.7% pass rate, with two distinctions in physical science.

Maths Olympiad

Vula Programme head Lloyd Smuts says, “Our maths project in the first half of this year saw 28 teachers attending 11 weeks of training on the Vula Academy campus at Hilton College, interspersed with smaller creative interventions.” These included 13 teachers in the Pholela and Bergville districts receiving laptops and projects for everyday maths teaching, and a maths Olympiad for 100 grade-11 pupils being held in the Uthukela district.

There was also a week-long maths workshop for a grade-12 group from the Bergville district, and two four-day residential workshops at Hilton College for 85 teachers.

Maths and science teacher development addressed

In the Vula Science Project, more than 500 pupils and teachers in rural and township schools received teaching and revision materials, a four-day residential workshop was held for 22 teachers, and groups of pupils from local schools were bussed to Hilton College to do practical science work in laboratories. Regular visits to schools in Wartburg, Sweetwaters and Georgetown, to assist with practical work and revision, were also undertaken.

The 18th annual Vula Careers Day also took place in February.

** The Datatec Foundation funds educational organisations whose purpose is to improve education within underprivileged communities in South Africa. Through the support of intervention programmes in maths and science, the foundation has been able to directly benefit 4 300 pupils and 500 teachers.