October 2018.

Further collaborative efforts between the Northern Cape Department of Education and local solar farms aim to help local learners improve their mathematics outcomes.

A school maths assistant support programme has been put in place by the Northern Cape Department of Education and is being funded by Droogfontein Solar Power and De Aar Solar Power, providing yet another example of how public-private partnerships can benefit local communities.

The programme, which sees thirty maths assistants placed in schools around Kimberley and De Aar, aims to help learners in Grades 4 to 6.

“Mathematics underperformance is a concern, not only in this Province, but throughout the country, as reported by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, who has released very sobering figures,” said Hlengiwe Radebe, Economic Development Director for Droogfontein Solar Power and De Aar Solar Power.

The programme was launched last month, with the Assistants having undergone formal training, by NCDOE Officials. All positions were advertised locally, with a preference given to those who reside within the school’s catchment areas. Training included a range of content including techniques on how to teach using manipulatives; administering baseline assessments; planning maths focus days and mathematics competitions; strengthening the teaching and learning of numeracy; incorporating games in mathematics and other key content areas of maths.

This programme forms part of the Solar Farms’ socio-economic development education programme, which includes a focus on improving numerical understanding and creating a critical awareness of how mathematical relationships are used in social, environmental, cultural and economic relations.

“There has been a growing recognition of the importance of foundation years for the acquisition of mathematics skills in our schools, a strong base is needed if children are to ultimately be successful in learning mathematics at higher grades,” explained Radebe.

The programme is being implemented across twenty schools with two assistants implemented in some of the larger schools.

Learners acquire learning deficits in their early years of schooling which snowball into larger difficulties as indicated by research. This results in learners diverting to ‘Maths Literacy’ as they find it challenging to cope with pure maths.
“Learners are still bound by using concrete strategies to solve mathematical problems or dependent on rote methods without understanding, which results in an absence of flexibility and fluency with both numbers and operations,” concluded Radebe.

Evidence suggests that a large number of South African learners have learning deficits, apparent already in the lower grades and that this is the root cause of underperformance in later years. The route of these difficulties points to learners not mastering the elementary numeracy and literacy skills in the Foundation and Intermediate Phases, leading to them being precluded from further learning and engaging fully with the grade-appropriate curriculum.