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Teacher mentorship pays off

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A pilot project in Mangaung where retired teachers mentor educators to help boost performance in the core primary school subjects, has shown encouraging progress in its first phase in 2012.

The Education Mentorship Development Programme (EMDP) is a project of the Central University of Technology (CUT) in the Free State and the Telkom Foundation. The programme focuses on upgrading pupils’ performance in science, technology, English and maths (STEM) under the guidance of six retired educators who are mentoring 25 educators at Bainsvlei, Grasslands and Kamohelo schools in Mangaung.

Mentors and mentees were acknowledged at an event held by CUT and the Telkom Foundation in Bloemfontein on 6 December 2012.

‚”Although the Education Mentorship Development Programme is still in its infancy, the progress we have seen in certain areas has been very pleasing and it is only fitting that we acknowledge the hard work of the mentors and mentees,‚” says Sarah Mthintso, Head of the Telkom Foundation.

In Bainsvlei, the school average in the four subjects had increased by 5%, to 76.2% from term four 2011 to term two 2012. The biggest improvement in this school was a 21% increase in the pass rate for science to 85.3% from 64.3%. At Grasslands there was a positive increase in the subjects of English and mathematics. The Kamohelo School has seen good improvements in the subjects of English, science and technology with an overall EMDP improvement at this school of 5.5%. Kamohelo has also been very receptive to the EMDP and the educators has benefitted hugely from the mentors’ assistance.

‚”The biggest improvement is in the general change of attitude of the teachers to the mentors, which has resulted in a positive spin-off for learners who are now showing willingness to learn and grasp subjects such as maths and science,‚” says Mthintso.

Six retired teachers, the ‚”silver‚” economy, were introduced in January 2012 to mentor and guide 25 teachers from Grade 0 to Grade 6.

‚”The retired educators brought in to mentor and help the schools bring with them new strategies, material and different methods in approaching teaching,‚” says Mthintso. ‚”Many of them have over 40 years of experience in teaching and a wealth of invaluable knowledge.‚”

She says the increasing availability of broadband can help to expand mentorship programmes by enabling mentors to engage directly with teachers at schools in remote locations.

‚”How we use the capability that broadband provides is just as important as having the technology available. Telkom’s support for programmes such as this should also be seen to be shining a light on the path ahead. We want to see technology such as broadband used effectively right from the outset.‚”

The project was initiated by CUT to try and improve the quality of matriculants who reach universities. The majority of learners lack the basic skills, especially in the subjects of maths and science which results in a high failure rate. This problem has been highlighted by the Annual National Assessment report which shows that by the time learners reach Grade 9, the national average pass rate for mathematics is 12.7%.

It was decided to start the process earlier, while the students are still at primary school, to provide a solid foundation for the later years in literacy and numeracy and to encourage students to choose maths and science as subjects when they reach Grade 10. The three township schools and various educators were identified by the Department of Basic Education to be mentored by retired teachers.

‚”There are still many challenges to address,‚” says Mthintso, ‚”and these have been identified during this initial phase but we are confident we can resolve them as we plan our roll out of the project to other provinces in 2013.‚”

The project is in line with government’s sentiment that education can be improved by strengthening the capacity of teachers to deliver the Literacy and Numeracy curriculum. The early results of the pilot project come on the back of the second Annual National Assessment of the Department of Basic Education earlier this week which shows that a major intervention is needed to prepare pupils for future workplace and study.

The Telkom Foundation has also provided the schools with resources and materials that they did not have access to, and all mentee teachers have been provided with laptops.

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