31 Aug Doubling his class pass rate
If one considers that 86% of South Africa’s 23 589 public schools don’t have science labs, the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the quality of our maths and science education makes sense. Placed last out of 148 countries, the result is both a sad indictment on our education system and a devastating future loss to our economy.
Benedict Sugudly can testify first-hand on how a lack of resources hampers a science class. A teacher at Enkokhokweni Primary at Clau Clau, he has always had a passion for the subject, but found it hard to create enthusiasm in his class, or any sense of relevance about what he was trying to teach. However, a Penreach intervention in 2017 changed all that.
One of 645 teachers from Penreach partner primary and high schools (Grade 4 – 12) to receive individual mentoring and coaching, and the use of National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) materials, Benedict’s pass rate doubled in 2018. His pupils also took part in Penreach Annual Science Week. “They left us with apparatus, where before we had to improvise. The NECT curriculum has lots of activities for the class to do and it keeps them occupied.”
He also mentions how excited the kids get at the sight of the Penreach BayLab, a mobile maths and science laboratory. A valuable resource made possible by a partnership between Bayer in South Africa and Penreach, it allows learners to perform experiments with advanced equipment and technology.
It also offers support to teachers to improve their methods, closes the knowledge gap between primary and secondary education, and improves students’ study methods and exam-writing techniques. “When I have a problem, they come,” Benedict says simply. “They guide me with experiments and ‘wow!’ the kids.” It also allows children to better understand science concepts and to move away from only memorising content for the sake of writing exams.
Benedict describes the Teacher Development Workshops he’s attended as hugely valuable, because of its hands-on nature. “It focuses on problem areas and how to teach the topic. It’s turned me into an organised teacher,” he smiles. He also acknowledges the input of two female volunteers, who inspires and encourages girls to partake, a crucial component in remedying our country’s science lag.
One of the issues he feels still needs attention, is community and parent involvement. Maths and science are subjects perceived to be impossibly difficult, and the average child can expect no help with homework from a parent. Community members, he feels, should be involved and science demystified. “It’s not that difficult,” he offers.
Asked whether he’s found Penreach to be valuable, he answers enthusiastically. “Too much. It helps so many teachers,” he says. “I hope it can continue helping rural schools with resources. It motivates and inspires the kids.”