The education portfolio accounts for the most significant portion of our budget. It will take the lead in each community through a variety of projects, including connecting schools state-of-the-art technologies to aid teaching and learning; Training and Support for Mathematics, Science Technology and Language Literacy educators including enhancing the outreach capacity of existing science centres and extensive Learner Support programmes. The other three focus areas will leverage the relationships established through these education initiatives to initiate their projects.
The MTN SA Foundation recognizes that remote and rural communities are among the neediest in South Africa. These communities face multiple challenges, but their location often means they are overlooked by mainstream social development vehicles.
As a telecommunications company with extensive experience in Africa, MTN knows first-hand how telecommunications can transform lives. Taking its cue from its parent company, the MTN SA Foundation similarly recognises the ability of technology to improve teaching and learning at schools in beneficiary communities. Many schools in these communities lack even basic infrastructure, and funds for computer centres and equipment are in desperately short supply. The MTN SA Foundation’s School Connectivity Programme addresses this challenge, rolling out computer laboratories comprising 20 computers, a multi-functional printer, a router for internet connectivity, a data card, an interactive white board and a data projector.
Since the project began, the MTN SA Foundation has rolled out one hundred and fifty seven of these computer centres.
In 2013 the MTN SA Foundation in partnership with Mindset Network rolled out the innovative broadcast learning technology to 29 secondary schools across the country as an extension of the Schools Connectivity programme.
Mindset installs satellite dishes, decoders, television screens and video-on-demand products in the schools, allowing teachers and learners to either access live curriculum-based programmes or retrieve recorded programmes that deal with specific sections of the curriculum. A broadcast schedule is sent to participating schools with broadcast subjects, topics, days and times. Teachers are trained on the technology to provide the best experience possible for the learners.
The Mindset Learn Xtra content is a revision resource which includes video lessons with supporting PDF notes providing overviews and summaries of the most difficult and important sections, as well as offering exam practice. Learners are encouraged to use Facebook, SMS, email or telephone calls to interact with the presenters during the broadcast. According to Goodman Chauke, Marketing & Stakeholder Relations for Mindset Network, the Facebook page is well supported by learners and includes Mindset study groups for various subjects and interaction with other learners.
Both teachers and learners are already deriving benefits from the technology. Many teachers battle to demonstrate abstract concepts through language and these can be far better explained using animation, filmed experiments, 3D models and the like. Learners themselves are often more motivated to grapple with the concept when it is presented to them in a visually interesting way. For some just the inclusion of Mindset into the classroom has inspired them to take their future careers in direction never before considered.
It was through the Mindset programme, established at Matlaisane High School in North West Province that Nkateko Matjeke discovered an interest in engineering and the means to best prepare for the more difficult Maths and Science exams. Following the completion of Grade 12, Matjeke was awarded a full bursary, sponsored by the MTN SA Foundation, to study engineering at the Tshwane University of Technology.
“We have a very good partnership with Mindset. They are always looking for new ways to improve the overall experience for the learners and the teachers using this technology,” says Eric Matsomane Senior Manager: Education, MTN SA Foundation.
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Maths and science performance has been identified as the key to improving pupils’ after-school job chances and closing the country’s skills gap. It is for this reason that in 2011, the MTN SA Foundation embarked on a new project to extend the benefits of science education to learners across South Africa. A total of 90 schools across the country received palmtop laboratories known as Minilabs. The Minilab provides mobile, low-cost science equipment that can be used anywhere to conduct science experiments. The kit can be used repeatedly and unlike many other science laboratories, doesn’t require running water and electricity.
Training and support for teachers is a key focus area for the Foundation. We are currently implementing a teacher training programme in Mathematics, Science, Computers and Language literacy in the 90 schools across the country. The result has been marvellous, teachers are more confident and have a far better grasp of the new curriculum. Key to the success of this project is sustainability and the Foundation is already in discussions with the Department of Education about continuing the programme.
The Foundation is currently rolling out an extensive learner support programme, which includes Saturday schools, and holiday and winter camps. We have recently engaged Mindset, an NGO that provides educational resources, to further support learners by broadcasting lessons in the learner computer labs.
MTN SA Foundation has recently embarked on a drive to supply school uniforms to learners in disadvantaged communities. To date, 1800 learners have benefitted from this initiative in the cluster communities that are supported by the MTN SA Foundation. These are the provinces of Limpopo, North-West, Mpumalanga, KZN, Eastern Cape and Free State.
The MTN SA Foundation has teamed up with Collective Genius to run debating programmes in high schools. Collective Genius is a Youth initiative that is aimed at creating strategies for engaging young people of South Africa.
The programme, called "Khuluma: Speak to the World", will run at the high schools targeted as priority schools in six provinces around the country. The provinces included in this programme are: Eastern Cape, Free Sate, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West.