When education support means real results
While the national lockdown due to Covid-19 last year was felt across the country, the pandemic really highlighted the inequality in our country, and in particular the digital divide as learners were forced from the classroom to the virtual classroom which the majority of schools and learners were not equipped for.
“One can’t imagine how difficult 2020 was for school kids and for matric learners in particular,” says Rose Mamabolo, WDBIH Business Manager. “Passing Grade 12 is stressful enough, without having to do it in a pandemic where schools were closed for four months and yet you are still expected to pass at the end of the year.”
Along with fellow matriculants around the country, Lehlohonolo Majatjabothata faced huge challenges in 2020.
A learner at Mokgome Secondary School in Meadowlands, Soweto, with high hopes of doing well in his finals (particularly in mathematics – his forte), Lehlohonolo felt very anxious when his school closed under the national lockdown regulations.
“We had to do online learning, and a lot of the communication was via WhatsApp,” says Lehlohonolo. “With four months of no school, I was very worried about whether I would pass my matric, and at times I felt like I had lost hope.”
While online learning may be a solution, it’s a costly one. Lehlohonolo points out that data is expensive, and he would have to buy data every two days.
“My school was providing notes via WhatsApp, but it was really all about self-study. What I didn’t understand I would find on YouTube.”
After months of struggling, the schools finally opened again mid-year, but it came with many stresses.
Lehlohonolo says, “I was really nervous, I was worried that I would get Covid at school and infect my family, I was also stressed out about failing matric.”
He felt a glimmer of hope when he heard about the Primestars eduCate Matric Maths and Science Revision programme. Supported by the Department of Basic Education, the programme was aimed at #SavingtheClassof2020 (hence the hashtag) and focused on matric maths and science, and was made available to Lehlohonolo and his fellow learners.
Primestars MD, Martin Sweet, says that under-resourced public schools and learners were bearing the brunt of the pandemic, and the organisation stepped in with an innovative solution: the EduCate #SavingTheClassof2020 initiative.
“We decided to begin a movement, with the support of the Department of Basic Education, to contribute to saving the class of 2020, and we focused on matric maths and science, which – based on previous results – represented the biggest need,” says Sweet.
WDBIH has been one of the key sponsors of Primestars’ “My Future, My Career” and “Step Up 2 A Start Up” entrepreneurship initiatives, and had seen the results of these excellent programmes over the years, which speak to WDB’s aims and vision of making a difference to the youth of South Africa.
Rose Mamabolo says supporting Primestars with the #SavingTheClassof2020 was a no-brainer for the organisation.
“Being able to reach out and assist learners from under-resourced areas through this campaign ticked all the boxes for WDBIH – the idea of giving the learners the opportunity to play catch-up, particularly in key subjects like maths and science through these intensive sessions was a case of taking real action,” she says.
At the #SavingTheClassof2020 webinar in August, hosted by the Mail & Guardian, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga confirmed that even though most matriculants lost out on many months of class time due to Covid-19 restrictions, the final exams would still cover the full curriculum. She expressed enthusiasm for the eduCate programme and congratulated Primestars and the sponsors for taking the initiative to support the class of 2020.
The programme was rolled out nationally, providing over 20,000 cinema seats for revision sessions from 13 September to 15 November 2020, with stringent Covid-19 safety protocols.
It was an ambitious project, and for Primestars GM Nkosinathi Moshoana it was a case of “go big or go home.”
He says, “EduCate covers the entire matric maths and science curriculum and weekly cinema lessons were simultaneously broadcast to 25 digitised cinemas across the country, over eight weeks and 25 hours. What’s novel about the concept is that learners also interact with subject experts who are available at each cinema to answer any questions, so there is some much-needed interaction. In addition, for take-home value, all participating learners and teachers received textbooks covering past exam papers, exercise activities, memos and other notes to assist with their revision.”
Being able to reach out and assist learners from under-resourced areas through this campaign ticked all the boxes for WDBIH – the idea of giving the learners the opportunity to play catch-up, particularly in key subjects like maths and science through these intensive sessions was a case of taking real action.
A Practical Approach
Lehlohonolo and his fellow learners were very excited about the opportunity to take part and says everything was very well organised: transport was provided from the local police station every Sunday, and from there buses would take them to Carnival City casino.
“EduCate really helped me. They provided formulas and took us through all the steps that I needed in mathematics to understand the different problems,” he says. “They made it much easier to understand, and we could also consult the people running the programme and that also helped.”
And it paid off. Although still nervous about passing, Lehlohonolo wrote his matric and passed well enough to get into university.
“I got my matric results earlier this year. I was a little bit disappointed as I felt I could have done a bit better – but I am now studying engineering and physical metallurgy at UJ and am really enjoying it.”
He says Primestars eduCate made a big difference in ensuring that he passed the year. “It was good, not only for me but for a friend of mine too – he was an average student, but he did really well!”
A Wider Impact
The #SavingtheClassOf2020 initiative was not only about cinema attendance, although there were over 20,000 learners who attended. It was also rolled out across digital media and television.
“It’s all about impact. Education has always been at the heart of our approach to youth development in South Africa,” says Rose Mamabolo, “The youth are going through a very tough time in South Africa. We urge other corporates to take the opportunity to get involved in similar educational programmes – to lend a hand to our youngsters – as a good education will pave the way for a brighter future for all.”
For learners like Lehlohonolo, the initiative was a stepping stone to the bright future he envisions for himself. This year a new initiative has been rolled out under the new hashtag, #StandingWithTheClassOf2021, and hopefully many more learners will have a chance at getting the results they are hoping for.