Network service providers MTN, Cell C and Rain are helping to make maths studies accessible to pupils in Grades 7 to 9 in historically disadvantaged townships across South Africa via free remote learning

The companies are providing zero-rated online access to study programmes developed by OLICO, a non-profit organisation founded in 2008 with the mission to “make maths make sense”.

When the national Covid-19 lockdown was implemented in South Africa from 26 March, schools were closed and pupils were home for about two months. The country moved to Level 3 of the lockdown on 1 June, and on Monday, pupils in Grade 7 and Grade 12 officially returned to school as permitted by the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

Co-founder and national co-ordinator of OLICO, Andrew Barrett, said there was some concern owing to the lengthy lockdown period during which pupils were not at school.

“There is a real concern for the damage this lockdown is doing, especially to Grades 8 and 9 learners, who are only scheduled to resume school in August. That’s why remote support through WhatsApp and zero-rated educational sites like ours can be a vital lifeline,” Barret said.

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He said that in addition to pupils accessing OLICO’s study programmes from the comfort of their own spaces, tutors remain in contact by calling or texting pupils in order to track their progress.

The online programme features 376 video tutorials, worksheets and discussions over WhatsApp.

Barrett said that during lockdown, 29 high school WhatsApp groups administered by OLICO were compromised.

“We have about 680 learners on WhatsApp, which is about 60% of the high school pupils we would usually work with. Key mathematical concepts are also available for pupils in Grade 7, 8 and 9 and are free to download.”

Barrett said that technology remains a barrier to learning.

“Access to smartphone devices and data are the main barriers to access for the other learners. The three telecommunication companies have really helped us address one part of the challenge. We’re hoping Vodacom and Telkom confirm their interest, and we’re in the process of trying to procure entry-level smartphone devices,” Barrett said.

OLICO is partly funded by the Datatec Education and Technology Foundation, the corporate social investment (CSI) arm of global ICT solutions and services group Datatec.

Datatec Group marketing and communications manager Wilna de Villiers said STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers are in high demand in the country and that maths is a critical aspect in all these fields.

“Even during this exceptionally trying time, pupils are showing perseverance and fortitude in accessing tutoring and training, which demonstrates their commitment to bettering themselves and their chances of a better future,” De Villiers said.

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Author: ANA Newswire