In order to build our nation we need educated, informed teachers to impart the correct knowledge to the future contributors of our country. With this harbinger echoing loudly to educators across the land we enter another academic year in institutions across the land.
Leading from the front, a local cement company with a thriving factory situated in Simuma in the heart of the Kwa Zulu Natal South Coast - NPC/Intercement is hitting the ground running.
A three year project which began in 2016 and which is partnered by the Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education (CASME) as part of the partnership Education project between NPC Intercement and Ugu District – has laid the foundations to provide workshops for educators in this area. As many as 81 teachers from deep rural schools in Harding gathered for a one day workshop conducted by CASME
The project aims to improve learner outcomes and build strong foundations for learning in the lower grades. The focus for 2017 continues to provide teacher training and support for Maths and English teachers in grade 4 - 6.
NPC/Intercement which is a company that is deeply ensconced in community projects of various natures decided to invest in education as part of its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) programme and approached the Department of Basic Education in the Ugu District in early 2016 to explore ways in which it could make a meaningful contribution.
NPC / InterCement SA was eager to engage with the District to jointly deliver a local education initiative that would be embedded in the work of the District and which would provide additional support to schools in the area – particularly those in the communities around NPC’s operations in Port Shepstone and Margate.
With reference to the Teacher Development Plan, the District and NPC / InterCement SA designed a teacher development programme aimed at supporting Lead Mathematics educators in the Intermediate Phase (Grades 4 - 6). The Intermediate Phase was identified as the priority cohort most in need of intervention. In February 2016, the Centre for the Advancement of Mathematics and Science Education (CASME) was approached by NPC / InterCement SA and the Ugu District to support the implementation of the programme. Together the parties devised a three year project implementation plan that includes training workshops for 40 Intermediate Phase Mathematics Lead educators, held on a quarterly basis before the start of each school term.
The workshops focus on Mathematical content across the Intermediate Phase grades, as well as on pedagogical skills training. Trained educators are also provided with manuals to refer back to when designing and implementing their lesson plans in class. In order to maximise the number of educators who could benefit from the initiative, the Department of Basic Education, with the support from CASME and NPC / InterCement, designed a model for the Lead educators to cascade their training to their peers within their clusters.
In addition to the mathematics training, an English programme that will support English teachers has also been implemented . This programme will build on the 5-day training that was recently provided to Intermediate Phase EFAL educators by the British Council. The workshops began in September 2016 and will be based on a similar training model as the Mathematics programme.
The UGU district has welcomed this program and is already seeing some positive results. Teachers have changed their attitudes towards teaching mathematics. English teachers have gained more confidence in teaching in such a way that their communication skills have developed and various strategies on addressing their subject content have developed. Educators, through workshops by cluster leaders are able to prepare for work to be covered in the term and address content gaps, share methodology and a variety of strategies for learning different concept and share information on how to deal with different learning challenges.
The UGU district educational body has already received positive feedback from lead teachers and the rest of the mathematics teachers in schools. Principals have also indicated that they observe an improvement in the mathematics teaching since the beginning of the workshops.
On average 277 educators have attended Mathematics workshops and 502 educators are expected to attend mathematics workshops in future.
All the teachers teaching English under Ugu district especially in the Intermediate phase are involved in the programme and future attendance at upcoming workshops is estimated at 600 educators
“The NPC Intercement & CASME workshops provide high quality workshop materials and quality facilitation which includes motivation for educators to always do their best in ensuring quality learning and teaching. We really acknowledge the NPC Intercement and CASME’s role as they are providing us with more strategies and teaching methodologies without deviating from our subject policy. Topics tackled are facilitated in a manner that when teaching is taking place it gives clear clarity on how to develop more activities that creates an enjoyable environment for all the learners in the classroom.” Comments Nozipho Mbotho (Ugu District) she goes on to say “We foresee an improvement in the learner performance in these two subjects specifically. An improvement in English will have a positive spill over in other subjects which are taught in English.”
Over the next two years, the DBE, with the support of NPC / InterCement and CASME, intends to continue training Intermediate Phase Mathematics Lead educators in quarterly training workshops, which will continue to focus on curriculum content revision and teaching methodologies. In addition, both CASME and the District will undertake visits to schools to support educators with curriculum delivery. The learners of the participating educators will also have an opportunity to compete in CASME’s annual Mathematics Olympiad.
Currently the yardstick for effectiveness of teaching and learning, are Grade 12 results.
Nevertheless since this cohort of learners will be subjected to the Olympiad, their performance will thus be observed and analysed.
Learners’ improvement on Maths and English will improve literacy and numeracy in the nation as is one of the objectives of the NDP.
Writer - Paul Godwin