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Six rural schools reap rewards from online maths and science support

Pupils at six rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga are showing exceptional academic progress in mathematics and science thanks to a partnership between paper giant Mondi and the Ligbron e-Learning System.

The Ligbron e-Learning System is a distance-learning project conceived in 2008 by Frans Kalp, deputy principal of Ligbron Academy. It connects schools all over South Africa to an online learning network, whereby Ligbron coordinates the live streaming of clear, concise maths and science lessons to schools that would otherwise not have this access.

When she first came across the programme, Corné Peters, the Social Programme Coordinator at Mondi, immediately recognised the passion for education in Kalp and all involved in the e-learning project.

“Ligbron is constantly innovating, and they offered an incredible combination of project management and technical management, so it was an exciting initiative for Mondi to partner with,” says Peters.

Maths and science are subjects vital to higher education progression, finding skilled employment, and can be considered the building blocks of the economy, she notes. The two subjects are also a prerequisite for pursuing a career in forestry and engineering, so Mondi offers bursaries to aspiring academic performers from its operational footprint.

“Stronger maths and science will build the bridge between the communities and the opportunities that exist in the forestry value chain,” she explains. “Our success as a business is intrinsically connected to the well-being and success of our neighbouring communities.”

Each e-Learning classroom has an e-Boxx with a smart interactive whiteboard, LCD screen with a digital camera, sound system and microphone. The LCD screen shows the image of the teachers/pupils from linked schools, enabling them to take an active part in the lesson, and the recorded lessons and other resources can be accessed by teachers and students at any time from the online platform known as DigiCampus.

Lessons targeting grades 11 and 12 are live-streamed, four days a week, while all day-to-day lessons in maths and science from grades 8–12 are available on DigiCampus.

Hot spots have been installed at Kwanxusa, Mahlahla and Indala to provide free Wi-Fi access to the DigiCampus.

In 2017, Kwanxusa High School near Melmoth, KZN, became the first school in the Mondi footprint to receive the infrastructure and software training needed to join the Ligbron e-Learning System. Mondi-Ligbron programme now caters for six schools, five in KZN and one in Mpumalanga and 3,831 maths and science learners. These are Kwanxusa High School, Mahlahla Secondary School (Bulwer), Indala High School (Richmond), Candabuthule Secondary School (Greytown), Emkhayideni Technical High School (KwaMbonambi), Esibusisweni Combined School (Iswepe).

The most recent addition to the programme is Emkhayideni Technical High School near Richards Bay, which was launched in 2023 along with Mondi’s partner, SiyaQhubeka Forests.

Principal Lawrence Shandu had an interesting perspective on the e-Learning System. “There is great fear of maths and science because of the lack of understanding,” he revealed. “This new system will make the subjects exciting and accessible.

“It will also help change the learners’ perspective – giving us hope that we can improve our pass rate and even excel in these difficult subjects.”

Notably, Candabuthule Secondary School has improved from a 15% pass rate in 2018, to 100% pass rate in 2023, whilst Mahlahla Secondary School shows an improvement from 30% pass rate in 2018, to 71% in 2023. The results in science are also compelling with growth in performance at every school with Candabuthule Secondary School maintaining a 100% pass rate in science.

Most impressive, perhaps, is the blossoming of bachelor passes at all the schools. As examples, Kwanxusa grew from 53 bachelor passes in 2017 to 128 in 2023, while Indala High School improved from 34 bachelor passes in 2017, to 69 in 2023.

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