South Africa’s public education sector is performing extremely poorly in international benchmarks for mathematics and science (TIMSS 2019). Our main goal is to develop a sustainable model that addresses the challenges faced by many students in mathematics and science, mostly in rural areas, creates interest for science in young people through astronomy and digitises education. We run an annual 3-week program aimed at grade 11 learners, running during December and January holiday. During the program we introduce the learners to grade 12 maths and science and inspire them with further science study opportunities so when they start their matric year, the last year of school leading to the South African National Certificate, they are already aware of the contents. The program is run by students who attended the program in previous year, who return to teach the following year.
Many students do not have anyone to help them at home with school work due to either the parents not being educated or not available (Many parents go to the city to work, coming home only during holidays). In addition to the 3-week program, we ran a mentorship programme connecting alumni of the program to the learners through digital means throughout the 2022 school year.
Astronomy is a key subject in the program, being both inspirational and aspirational thanks to the many opportunities offered by South Africa’s leadership in SKA and optical/IR astronomy with SALT. We also started a science club centred around astronomy, which will connect to the Science Spaza science club network across the country.
- teachers workshop on 20 of April 2022 to share the project goals and how best to partner with them to fulfil this goal
- science club for grade 8 and 9 students from 21 May to 22 October 2022. Here students attended sessions twice a month engaging in different activities in physics, mathematics and astronomy
- workshop on 3 December 2022 with the parents of students who participated in the summer school; to share the project goals and understand the challenges that affect the students
- 3 week summer school program for grade 11 students which ran from the 5-24 December 2022 where they were taught grade 12 physical science, mathematics in preparation of their matric year and also astronomy.
- A mentorship program started on 01 April 2023 where the mentors, who are former students, assist students with school work throughout the year
The team will collect feedback from the teachers on how the students are performing and how their participation in the project has affected their interest in science. There will also be a survey of the students in addition to feedback on how involving their parents and mentorship is contributing to their academics. Finally, the team will follow up on how many students take up science courses/field after matric.