NMU model brings ‘second-chance’ matrics closer to university

Lerato Segonote, left, and Breyton van Wyk, pupils at the Mathematics, Science and Commerce Centre in Mahikeng, learn how to use the Gamma Tutor which was developed by Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre
MARKS BOOST: Lerato Segonote, left, and Breyton van Wyk, pupils at the Mathematics, Science and Commerce Centre in Mahikeng, learn how to use the Gamma Tutor which was developed by Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre
Image: SUPPLIED

School closures driven by Covid-19 have presented challenges for pupils everywhere — including a group of past matriculants who were hoping to use the year to improve their poor matric marks so they could gain access to university.

Thanks to the introduction of hi-tech maths and science support platforms at their school — a joint venture between Nelson Mandela University, North-West University and the North-West department of education — more than  200 pupils have a real chance at achieving their dreams to become future engineers, doctors and teachers.

“You have a really powerful set of instruments in your hands, so you can be prepared and have great success at the end of the year,” North-West Province University’s Prof Hercules Nieuwoudt told the group at the launch of the GammaTutor Resource Support Programme at the Mathematics, Science and Commerce Centre (Masccom), an upgrading centre for matrics in Mahikeng.

The technology-blended approach used in the new support programme is the brainchild of Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC) and is already being used in schools across the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal to help pupils improve their maths and science marks during the Covid-19 period.

Among the technology in the new programme are 80 GammaTutors, which are digitalised teaching and learning devices that can be linked directly to any digital screen, data-projector or TV.

Apart from specialised teacher resources, GammaTutors are also loaded with GMMDC’s innovative TouchTutor app for pupils, which includes video lessons, PowerPoint presentations, self-tests and multi-language support, all linked to the grade 10-12 curricula for maths and physical sciences.

Pupils can also use GMMDC’s MobiTutorZA app, which is an online version of the TouchTutor app, on cellphones.

The centre will also make use of WhatsApp groups and interactive Zoom sessions to provide further support to teachers from the Masccom centre.

“The learners will be able to use the mobile plug-and-play support platforms after school as part of a technology-assisted peer support (TAPS) programme.

“This essentially provides structured support at the school or anywhere else for self-directed learning,” GMMDC director Prof Werner Olivier said.

Teachers at the school have also been trained to use the GammaTutors and MobiTutorZA as teaching aids in their classrooms.

“The Masccom project initially began as an emergency plan when the Covid-19 lockdown started in March,” Olivier said.

It started as a separate pupil support project, where North-West University used its eFundi teaching and learning support platform together with some of GMMDC’s GammaTutor resources, to enable prospective engineering students  to prepare for successful access to university studies in 2021.

The new support platforms at the Masccom centre are similarly aimed at improving the maths, physical sciences or life sciences marks of “second-chance” grade 12s  who completed matric in the past, but whose marks were not good enough to access professional degree programmes at university.

Plans are in place to use this technology-based approach to help in-service health workers and other working professionals across SA gain access to university courses requiring maths and science to upgrade their qualifications.

“We have been waiting for [support such as] this for a very long time,” Masccom principal Nthabiseng Kawadza said.

We are very happy it has come.”

The Masccom project is sponsored by the Nedbank Eyethu Community Trust.

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