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While most teenagers see Saturday as a day to sleep in and catch up with friends, one hundred Grade 10 learners from Alexandra’s high schools are doing something different. They have been dedicating their Saturdays to attend the Maths and Science Academy for Alexandra Schools (MSAAS) project run by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) to help better their marks in pure mathematics, physical science, accounting and English.
Very few township learners go on to pursue courses that required maths or science at university. The two main reasons for this are firstly that very few learners take pure maths as a matric subject – favouring maths literacy instead; and secondly out of those who do pure maths, only 32% achieve the required pass mark of 30% as per the 2015 National Senior Certificate (NSC) final matric exam results. This rate is far lower than the 50%-60% that relevant university courses require for entry.
The high school principals from Gauteng’s Alexandra township say they refuse to let their learners to fall through this crack any longer. With SAICA’s help, they have begun to offer Grade 10 learners Saturday enrichment classes that will help them buck this alarming trend. This because of the MSAAS project.
MSAAS gives learners a better grasp on critical subjects
Launched on 19 February 2016, MSAAS focuses on helping Grade 10 learners in Alexandra better their marks in maths, science, English and accounting.
Hosted at Minerva Secondary School between 08h00 and 14h30 every Saturday, the project is attended by a hundred Grade 10 learners – 20 each from Alexandra’s five high schools (Realogile Secondary, Minerva Secondary, Eastbank High, Alex High and KwaBhekilanga Secondary).
It is hoped that the additional assistance made available to the learners achieve though MSAAS will give them the extra push they need to excel. For this reason, learners on the programmes are selected using the following criteria:
- They take pure maths, physical science and accounting;
- Based on their Grade 9 results, their teachers recognise that they have the potential to excel if given additional support; and
- They are not currently already involved in additional supplementary classes;
Reflecting on the first semester’s progress, Minerva Secondary School’s Principal, Nontsikelelo Tsatsi, says that ‘one of the things we like most about the project is that it is targeted at Grade 10s because this is when learners are exposed to subject choices. By starting with additional support for learners at this level and moving with them to Grade 12, this project gives us the greatest chance of improving our results in these subjects.’
Speaking on the importance of the maths classes, Matsoso Tsoaeli, Project Director for Transformation and Growth explains: ‘One of the key things this project is working on is alleviating “maths anxiety” in schools. Studies have revealed that when pupils are confident in maths and their abilities, they are less willing to take the easier option of maths literacy and do better in tests and exams.’
This seems to be working, reveals Tsatsi. ‘At Minerva, we are already seeing the difference in the confidence of these learners in our classrooms. They cooperate better and are more willing to interact in class. In addition, we are also seeing a change in attitude around these “difficult” subjects in the handful of learners on the programme. It is my hope that these students will become leaders and help change their peers’ attitudes to help remove the idea that subjects like maths and accounting are “monsters”.’
Tsatsi adds that she is excited about the second term exams, as this will give schools the first true indication of how learners have improved compared to the marks they achieved in the first term. She also praises the four teachers who selflessly give up their Saturdays to assist these learners and adds that their performance and commitment is a telling factor of their ability to bring these ‘difficult’ subjects across in an easy and understandable way.
Maths, science and accounting pass rates: a very real problem in South Africa
‘When you look at the 2015 matric results, the value of projects like SAICA’s MSAAS project cannot be understated. While on the surface the results look good with an increase in the number of learners who passed maths and physical science, it is worrying that only 23% of matrics achieved more than 30% in mathematics, while only 36.9% learners scored over 40% in physical science. Meanwhile, quality assurance body Umalusi says the performance of pupils accounting has continued to decline as well,’ adds Tsoaeli.
‘Based on these numbers, it is clear that urgent intervention is needed to rectify this situation. SAICA believes MSAAS can do just that for the learners of Alexandra,’ Tsoaeli concludes.