Monday, October 26, 2020
Opinion Public Relations

Quality education has the potential to be one of the greatest equalizer

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In the home of Regina Molloy, this is a reality. In addition to Regina’s 3 children, Gladys, and her granddaughter Lesedi (pictured on the right) also attend school. Regina Molloy, an educated Science professional with 26 years of experience, which includes working half her career at an international level understands the benefits of a good education and therefore introduces and promotes this into her sphere of influence.

Technology makes most things possible. As pictured Gladys has access to an education she was deprived of as a child. Technology, when used wisely, enables growth, shared knowledge and worldwide conversations. In a day I travel across the globe engaging with a variety of people and cultures. It also saves me time, energy, money and minimises my carbon footprint. However, this experience is not the same for many.

Onthathile Ditshego, from the Trevor Noah Foundation South Africa, informed me that through her work in schools, she continues to see how COVID-19 has further exposed inequitable access to high-quality education and a growing digital divide.

On my mission to lessen this educational and accessibility divide, I came across the partnership between the MTN SA Foundation and the Siyavula Foundation.

On researching Siyavula, I was excited to hear that a nuclear physicist’s chance meeting with a group of enthusiastic students from an under-resourced rural community gave rise to the birth of Siyavula. Mark Horner’s commitment to bridging the divide between a token education and a quality education resulted in the creation of openly licensed collaborative textbooks. This software offered flexibility, low-cost entry, and the option of widespread participation. Today the Siyavula e-learning platform offers online textbooks, practice software and exam preparation content.

The MTN SA foundation invested R3 million into the Siyavula e-learning platform. This investment was to give South Africa’s grade 10 to 12 learners access to the mathematics software and online textbooks for Computer Application Technology (CAT) and Information Technology (IT).

All the content on the Siyavula platform has been zero-rated for MTN customers, no data costs are incurred when learners use it.

Angie Maloka from the MTN Foundation and Neels van der Westhuizen from the Siyavula Foundation shared some insights on the learner participation and development.

According to Neels at the end of June 2020, a total of 777 239 South African unique users visited www.siyavula.com to access a total of 19 760 881 pages. This represented a 65% increase in users and a 131% increase in page views over the same period in 2019.

Textbook readership by the title continues to grow month-on-month for all titles, IT titles are reaching between 30% and 50% of all learners enrolled in that subject in South Africa and Physical Sciences 10 and 12 reaching 60% of all enrolled students.

A total of 111 897 new learners registered for Siyavula Practice in Grades 10-12 attempting a total of 2 767 330 mathematics questions with 56% of the government school learners attending no-fee schools.

According to Angie Maloka, Bokang Mafereka, a grade 12 learner at Curtis Nkondo ICT school is determined to excel at the end of the year. Bokang is hoping to attend university in 2021. His dream is to study computer science in the USA at either at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Stanford University. It was exciting to hear that in the first 6 months of 2020 Bokang, through the Siyavula platform, has mastered the Grade 12 mathematics curriculum.

He has completed almost 2 500 questions on Siyavula. Bokang’s maths teacher, Belenda Mlambo, explains: “We encourage learners to use Siyavula. While they can’t always access the program in school, we set assignments for them to do at home, and encourage them to practise. It’s so convenient for our learners, as it provides a free option for them to study. For us teachers, it allows us to track our learners’ progress, so it is very helpful. The lockdown period has been extremely difficult, but I can see that some of my learners are still practising and working. It’s giving me really good feedback.”

Teachers, students and supermum’s like Regina and Ontathile have confirmed the benefits and value the Siyavula e-learning platform provides.

How can we support?

Corporates and individuals, who have resources please be part of the movement that builds on the existing e-learning structures and who encourage learner participation and further support these programmes in ways that advance the intended goal.

In South Africa, quality education for all is possible. This journey, however, is riddled with challenges.
The GOAL: at the end of 2030 all children living in South Africa will have equal access to quality education. Please help by kick-starting phase one.

Phase one:

Continue to drive the awareness of the Siyavula e-learning opportunity.

In September 2020 access to Siyavula Maths Practice is free. Please encourage learners to do the exercises. The reward is growth in maths skills, exam readiness and the chance to win fantastic prizes.

If you can support a learner through this educational journey,
please do.

Phase two:

Finding the workable ways around these barriers:

Limited and poor network access

In some homes crowding and the noise level impacts the ability to learn

Some of the zero-rated sites, require a positive data balance to access the sites

Lack of devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops etc.

Electricity challenges

Financial constraints

Security and crime related issues

Written By : Charmaine Soobramoney

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