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Digitising Maths in our rural classrooms

Tablet Facilitator running a maths lesson

In South Africa, learners in grades 4-9 often struggle with mathematics due to poor foundations in the subject. This is especially true in rural schools where English is usually not the first language spoken. As a result, learners often enter high school with significant backlogs in both maths and language skills. Research shows that these backlogs worsen over time, creating a cumulative effect. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic only made this situation worse especially in rural areas with limited access to technology and internet connectivity.

To address these challenges, we developed the Yenzokuhle and Tablet Facilitation Programs, which help rural learners practice maths using digital tools. These programs provide additional opportunities for learners to strengthen their mathematical concepts and ensure that they have the necessary skills to succeed in high school and beyond. To achieve this, the programs use South African-developed digital maths practice platforms such as Reflective Learning, Olico, Siyavula, and Greenshoots. These platforms are designed to be interactive and include features that make learning and practicing maths fun and engaging.

Yenzokuhle facilitators in class

While these technical solutions are important, we have found that the real magic lies in empowering young people from the community we work in to act as facilitators. These facilitators are trained to lead small group lessons in maths, providing learners with individual attention and support. This approach not only helps to improve learners' maths skills but also provides them with positive role models who can inspire them to pursue the subject further in their education journey.

Our Central Education Unit trains the facilitators to use a variety of teaching strategies to accommodate different learning styles and abilities. By doing so, the facilitators create a supportive and inclusive learning environment that helps learners to succeed.

Tablet Facilitators concluding a maths lesson

Overall, the Yenzokuhle and Tablet Facilitation Programs are making a real difference in the lives of rural learners in the Eastern Cape. Yenzokuhle was part of a Zenex Foundation-funded study that sought to understand mathematics backlogs in South Africa. As part of this study, an external evaluation by Eric Schollar and Associates found that learners in the program showed significant gains compared to those in control schools. By providing learners with access to high-quality maths education and support, these programs are helping learners develop digital skills and become proficient in maths.

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