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STEM skills education NGO records 99.5% matric pass rate

PROTEC’s Class of 2021 proved their mettle throughout their pandemic-ravaged final two high school years, and emerged triumphant with a 99.5% pass rate and a 78.2% bachelor pass rate, marking an encouraging start to PROTEC’s 40th anniversary year.

PROTEC is a national NPO established in 1982 in Soweto by the SA Institute of Civil Engineers to help black high school children in disadvantaged communities prepare for successful careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields. Over four decades, more than 30,000 disadvantaged learners have successfully passed through the PROTEC programme and are now qualified professionals.

Of the 367 matriculants around the country in PROTEC’s primary support programme for learners with the potential to improve their performance, 365 passed, 287 achieved bachelor passes, and overall they achieved a total of 430 distinctions.

PROTEC’s 2021 matriculant participants are from 141 high schools serviced by eight branches – seven in KwaZulu-Natal (Tongaat, Inanda and KwaMashu, Mandeni, Stanger, Umlazi, Umbogintwini, and Umkomaas areas) and one in Nelspruit in Mpumalanga; and five projects – four in Gauteng (Altron Soweto, AngloGold Ashanti Diepsloot, Zutari Mamelodi, and Telkom Tshwane) and one in the Eastern Cape (Dedisa Motherwell).

Highlights of the Class of 2021 results:

PROTEC’s top 2021 achiever is Phindile Xaba from PROTEC Tongaat branch. She attended Sacred Heart Secondary School and achieved seven distinctions. Phindile was awarded Top Girl Learner in Maths and Physical Sciences in the ‘Learning against Adversity’ category in Pinetown District. This year she’s studying computer sciences and information technology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
· PROTEC Stanger’s Darshan Bramdev from Stanger Manor Secondary School achieved 96% in English and five distinctions, and came in second overall in PROTEC’s top 10 students

PROTEC Tongaat’s Ntuthuko Ngcobo from Nondenisa Secondary School achieved 99% in mathematics
PROTEC Nelspruit’s Michael Maseko from Sitintile Secondary School achieved 99% in Physical Sciences and five distinctions
PROTEC Umlazi’s Ernest Gabayi from Velabahleke Secondary School achieved eight distinctions
· 28 students achieved five and more distinctions

· Five of PROTEC’s top 10 learners are female

PROTEC also runs a whole-school programme sponsored by Telkom that aims to improve STEM-field performance in five Tshwane schools, which achieved an 84.1% matric pass rate and a 38.5% bachelor pass rate. Five students achieved five and more distinctions in this programme, with top achiever, Shenikah Ledwaba from Reitumetse Secondary School in Soshanguve achieving seven distinctions, which includes 99% in Accounting.

Balan Moodley, CEO of PROTEC, is extremely proud of PROTEC’s 2021 matriculants whose crucial final two school years were beset by challenges resulting from pandemic lockdowns, power outages, July 2021 riots, and economic hardship.

He explains, “When the pandemic struck in 2020 we responded immediately by adjusting our course material, trained facilitators on the new digital tuition, and provided data to our learners. In 2021 we introduced our hybrid teaching method incorporating the use of tablets. We sourced 1,233 tablets for our learners and tutors and installed with the PROTEC e-learning platform supported by EduVOD SA.

“Congratulations to our beneficiaries and their facilitators on these results. They all worked extremely hard and showed wholehearted commitment throughout the programme – all of which has paid off.”

Top achiever Phindile Xaba says she achieved her award-winning results by working hard. “I started studying from the first day of the academic year – and self-discipline and commitment drove me. I studied in advance and made sacrifices, all of which helped me to obtain good results.

“PROTEC made a huge difference to my studies. I loved Saturday school at PROTEC; it introduced me to amazing tutors who made the work easier to understand and I learnt to be a consistent and committed learner. I always used the study material they gave me. I am proud of what I achieved, and I owe PROTEC, and particularly Marion Takis, PROTEC Tongaat’s branch manager, my gratitude.”

Moodley says that also noteworthy are the matric results from the AngloGold Ashanti Project, which accommodates learners from three high schools in Diepsloot, Soweto. “At the start of this project in 2019, we ran a test to identify learners who met our selection criteria. Only two passed. This was alarming for us and our sponsor, but our operations team embraced the challenge and went the extra mile to support the learners, even providing power banks to combat endless power outages.”

The average improvements over three years by the project’s 39 learners are:

Maths – from 37% at inception to 65% in 2021
Physical Sciences – from 34% to 63%
English – from 53% to 70%
· Accounting – from 42% to 76%

· The top six maths learners had an average of 35% at inception. Their matric result is a combined average of 84%

Moodley adds, “The Diepsloot cohort achieved a 100% pass rate, a 95% bachelor pass, and 56 distinctions overall. The top three learners are all girls – Glory Nkiwane achieved six distinctions; Rebecca Sithole, five; and Angela Sithole, also five.”

Professor Francis Faller, Visiting Adjunct Professor at Wits University and Higher Education representative on the PROTEC Board, applauded both the students and the PROTEC team for the excellent 2021 matric results. “The results the students in the standard PROTEC programme achieved are highly impressive, specifically because their two final school years were so disrupted. Their results – and notably the high average bachelor pass rate against the national average of 36.4% – are a testament to the PROTEC team’s readiness and ability to rapidly adapt to the total upheaval that came in with the pandemic, and to continue delivering excellent support, material, mentoring and training, while also motivating and encouraging the matriculants.”

Faller also encourages the matriculants who did not achieve bachelor passes: “There is a vast world of opportunities for students who did not achieve a bachelor pass or who choose not to attend university; students must understand that it doesn’t necessarily take a university degree to be successful.” He suggests that educators and organisations such as PROTEC should highlight the achievements of learners who study for diplomas or through learnerships, as well as the wide-ranging career options open to them. “These youngsters have the potential to become the backbone of our communities, contributing essential services across all sectors, running successful small businesses, and taking up leadership positions in their communities.”

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