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3 August 2020
UWC students and alumni spreading good math vibes during lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic might have led to school closures again, but students from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) are still offering mathematics tutoring to pupils, thanks to technology.

UWC’s Faculty of Education entered into a partnership with Numeric – an NGO offering help to economically vulnerable primary school pupils in South Africa.

UWC alumni have also joined the high-impact after-school mathematics programmes with 45 schools in Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal which are aimed at helping young South Africans excel in mathematics. In total, the 2 400 pupils receive an extra 100 hours of extra mathematics instruction each year. In addition, Numeric aims to help train well-equipped and passionate teachers. 

Numeric’s CEO, Kristen Thompson, said: “This collaboration with the Education Faculty at UWC helps to support the development of future maths teachers through our year-long teaching internship.

“The input helps us to build maths foundations for primary school learners and develop the next generation of teachers for the public school system.”

She said they have 98 university students in total – 17 of whom are from UWC. Some are involved in their teaching internship. Three are UWC alumni.

UWC alumnus, Stephen Kweza, is the Chief Programme Manager of Numeric’s Cape Town office and Nkosithandile Shologu and Nasser Abrahams are both programme managers.

Kweza said, “As a country, we’ve been looking for a more accessible education system, and this project is enabling us to do this. I think this kind of idea is moving the country in the right direction.”

He said they had selected students who are eager to create content and build their skills.

“The UWC students we're currently working with are from all around the country, and they’re currently in their hometowns due to the lockdown. Some of them are in rural areas, and they’re still able to connect. We often complain about infrastructure in rural areas, but it’s wonderful to see them able to connect with learners in Cape Town.”

Kweza further believes this project allows them to professionalise their communication skills because they liaise directly with parents.

Professor Bhekumusa Khuzwayo from the School of Science and Mathematics Education at UWC said participating students have a much better understanding of what to expect in the real world as a result of their exposure.

“They get first-hand experience in dealing with real challenges in teaching mathematics. I can see the students’ improved confidence as future teachers of mathematics,” noted Prof. Khuzwayo.

“I also like that pre-service students become quite responsible and show an ability to make decisions independently because the experience offers them the opportunity to learn things on their own. They participate in various training opportunities with Numeric staff without the supervision of their lecturers.”

The collaboration started in 2013 and 94 UWC students have completed a year-long teaching internship, while others opt to stay on longer.

Thompson confirmed that learning on one’s feet is the name of the game in the face of the COVID crisis. Their entire operational approach had to shift in a matter of weeks.

She said: “Not being able to meet with our learners face-to-face, we had to implement an innovative distance learning solution powered by low-data technology. We’re now able to reach over 1688 of our learners through WhatsApp groups and SMS. 

“Our learners receive video lessons (in English, isiXhosa, and/or isiZulu), practice exercises, playmaths games and riddles, and have consultations twice each week.

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