The Numeric Distance Learning Project has attracted about 17 UKZN education students who have offered their teaching services and knowledge for high-impact after-school mathematics programmes aimed at primary school learners in Gauteng, the Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.
Numeric is a public benefit organisation and a community engagement partner with the School of Education, which helps young South Africans excel in mathematics and also trains teachers.
Numeric currently partners with 45 primary schools in low income areas, reaches more than 2 400 learners annually, and has worked with around 11 500 youngsters since inception. Numeric programmes offer learners 100 hours of extra maths instruction each year in the form of after-school classes held twice a week at local primary schools.
‘Given the lockdown and not being able to meet with our learners face-to-face, we have implemented an innovative distance learning solution powered by low-data technology whereby we are currently able to reach about 1550 of our learners across the country through WhatsApp groups, Facebook, and SMS,’ said Numeric CEO Ms Kristen Thompson.
‘Our learners connect with a coach (teaching intern) through a WhatsApp group where they receive video lessons in English and/or isiZulu, practice exercises, maths games and riddles, and consultation time twice a week. We have also made these resources available on our website (www.numeric.org/learning-tools).’
Several UKZN students have contributed directly to the development of these videos and resources.
Education student Mr Sazi Nxumalo says his role in teaching learners at a distance has been an educational journey. ‘There has been a lot to learn such as organising, improvising, and preparing myself as a pre-service teacher. Teaching from a distance is challenging,’ said Nxumalo.
‘There is one important feature every teacher must have and that is a strong relationship with learners. Being in contact with learners is not unusual because that’s what we’re used to but this is a new opportunity for me as this project is about building relationships at a distance. It’s all about giving back to the community and supporting parents in the role they have to play.’
Fellow student Ms Nombulelo Ngobese added: ‘One important thing this has taught me is patience. We send a video and an exercise to a learner and it can take them two days to send back the answers. The learners may have problems around issues such as data, network, and other things, so I have had to be patient.’
Tutoring online is a first for Ngobese: ‘It is an interesting thing to do via WhatsApp. Most of us have WhatsApp where data is cheaper so it is a lot more accessible for the kids. Making videos is fun but challenging. You need to be precise, straight to the point, while explaining everything that the learner needs to know.’
Said Mr Luvuyo Notshokovu who leads the Numeric team in Durban: ‘I grew up thinking teaching was having someone in front of you with chalk and a duster. I am blown away by the level of engagement the learners are showing via WhatsApp by just watching a video and being able to ask questions and communicate at a distance. I am proud of the UKZN students who are involved. It’s showing that the country is heading in the right direction because we have young people who really care about the education sector as a whole.’
A total of 284 learners in KwaZulu-Natal are involved in the distance-learning project thus far.