Siyavula and MTN SA Foundation partnership sees 50 SA learners completing entire year's maths and science curriculum during lockdown
While the majority of schools are reopening for grades 7 and 12, South Africa's lockdown has not prevented some learners from preparing hard for their final matric exams. A partnership between the Siyavula Foundation and the MTN SA Foundation has seen 50 learners completing, and scoring 100%, for the entire year's maths and science curriculum, using Siyavula's online platform, in the past couple of months.
Earlier this year, the MTN SA Foundation invested R3 million into the Siyavula e-learning platform that offers online textbooks, practice software and exam preparation content. Aligned to its core business focus areas in the technology and telecommunications industry, MTN's investment was about ensuring that SA's grade 10 to 12 learners would have access to world-class mathematics software and online textbooks for CAT and IT.
In addition, all the content has been zero-rated for MTN customers on the Siyavula platform - meaning that no data costs are incurred when learners use it.
"We were thrilled to hear about the positive impact that Siyavula's e-learning platform has had during lockdown. This has not been an easy period for our country, including SA's school-going youth. It is always very encouraging to see how some of our youth refuse to get knocked down and choose to rise above challenges. The students who have taken advantage of e-learning channels, such as Siyavula - to get and stay ahead of the game - are an example of this. For MTN, we are proud to have played a part in making this possible," says Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, General Manager: MTN SA Foundation.
Bokang Mafereka, a grade 12 learner at Curtis Nkondo ICT school, is one such learner. Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation, situated in Emndeni Extension in Soweto, opened its doors to Grade 8 and 9 learners in 2016. The school, which focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects, offers only pure maths, and learners can specialise in subjects like IT, engineering, graphics and design (EGD), and mechanical, civil and electrical engineering.
Mafereka is among the second class of learners to be matriculating from Curtis Nkondo this year. Determined to excel at the end of the year, his preparations for exams are well under way. While Mafereka is hoping to attend university in 2021, his dream is to study computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Stanford University, both in the USA.
The school uses Siyavula's online maths and science program to help learners practise and prepare for exams. Mafereka's maths teacher, Belenda Mlambo, explains: "We encourage learners to use Siyavula. While they can't always access the program in school, we set assignments for them to do at home, and encourage them to practise. It's so convenient for our learners, as it provides a free option for them to study. For us teachers, it allows us to track our learners' progress, so it is very helpful. The lockdown period has been extremely difficult, but I can see that some of my learners are still practising and working. It's giving me really good feedback."
The aim of using Siyavula is for learners to master curriculum content in order to meet their own achievement goals for mathematics and physical science. The system not only tracks learners' progress, but also offers virtual rewards to learners in the form of "atoms". Atoms are earned for correct answers, and for completing chapters. In turn, these atoms are linked to a learner's mastery level. Learners start off with easy questions, and as these are answered correctly, the system delivers more challenging content. Learners can work to reach 100% mastery for sections, chapters or for the entire curriculum.
With half the year still to go, Mafereka has managed to completely master the Grade 12 mathematics curriculum, and he's almost completed his physical sciences curriculum too. This year so far, he's completed almost 2 500 questions on Siyavula, working ahead on his own to complete all chapters in the national Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) curriculum. He also uses textbooks and focuses on completing past exam papers.
Grade 9 Barnato Park High School (in Berea, Johannesburg) learner, Tehye Petros, has also completed her entire Grade 9 curriculum. Says Petros: "Siyavula is an amazing platform. When I don't really understand something, it helps me to understand the work. I was aiming for 100% mastery on Siyavula, because I wanted to be ahead of everyone else. I want to be a doctor, so part of my goal is to be excellent in maths."
Petros was introduced to Siyavula last year by Roedean Academy, which takes girls from Barnato Park, and provides them with after-school tuition in mathematics, physical science, English and accounting. For mathematics, learners are shown videos, and then use Siyavula to practise the concepts they're revising.
Former Roedean Academy Director Sandra McCallum explains why Siyavula is part of the Academy's programme: "The girls really love using Siyavula because it gives them feedback straight away. They can also work at their own pace and get individual help when they need it. They can also do as many examples as they want. They will always choose Siyavula if they are given the choice."
Sibongile Zwane, Petros's mathematics tutor and herself an ex-Roedean Academy learner, has found Siyavula particularly helpful for the learners she tutors during the past few months: "It has been fantastic to have during lockdown, as the girls can still get a maths and science education, even if they're not in the classroom."
Learners like Mafereka and Petros are not alone. Siyavula runs national leaderboards showing the top 10 learners in each grade, and most of them are at or are close to 100%. These are extraordinary learners, working ahead on their own and finishing their entire year's work. They are joined by thousands of learners who also practise every day, and who have contributed to the more than seven million questions completed on Siyavula so far this year.
"We want to celebrate the accomplishments of these learners and believe that they have set an example to encourage others to do the same. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it's that our teachers and youth need to look at harnessing the power of technology to supplement traditional forms of teaching and learning, and Siyavula is one example of how this can be achieved," concludes Mtunzi-Hairwadzi.
MTN encourages leaners to enrol on this e-learning platform, www.siyavula.com, or access the learning material via the Siyavula app (available within the Google Store).
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