Universities of Limpopo and the Free State have joined hands to provide training to mathematics and science teachers in the Mankweng area, Limpopo. The classes are meant to help upgrade teachers’ content knowledge in the two critical subjects. South Africa has serious shortage of maths and science teachers forcing it to import teachers from neighbouring countries mostly Zimbabwe.
Maths and science are considered ‘gateway’ subjects and feature prominently on government’s plans as it seeks to promote and encourage learners to pursue STEM studies. Called the ‘Science for the Future’, the project takes the form of series of workshops which were launched in 2019 with the University of the Free State (UFS) as the grant holder. The UFS has so far partnered with six institutions including the University of Limpopo (UL).
The workshop training sessions are sponsored by the South African National Roads Agency with the UL’s Science Education Centre providing facilitation services. The centre’s manager, Annelize Potgieter, said they could not hold the workshops last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic but gave an assurance that this year the workshop series will continue as scheduled.
“Teachers are trained in mathematics and sciences content to boost their confidence and skills as well as to provide them with resources to enhance their classroom teaching and learning experience,” explained Potgieter.
The recent workshop was hosted at Makanye Primary School with the first training targeting Grade 3 mathematics teachers under a programme called ‘Family Maths’. The natural sciences Grade 8-9 teacher workshop was held under the theme: ‘Key concepts in Science’.
Potgieter said that the workshops are popular with teachers as they gain relevant and effective classroom teaching skills. These include how teachers can present abstract mathematics and science concepts in a practical and engaging way.
“Most areas include the practical work in sciences since most schools do not have enough resources to perform practicals. In terms of content, the workshop focused on the use of e-learning resources, chemical reactions, patterns, functions and algebra among many other areas,” said Potgieter.
Teachers who took part in the workshops hailed it as a constructive and useful initiative. “It assisted us in discovering more ways to conduct practical teaching. It also makes it easy for learners as they understand contents easily through practical experiments that are related to their learning areas,” said Andries Mamabolo, a Grade 9 natural sciences and Grade 10 life sciences teacher at Hwiti High School.
Another participant, Gloria Makgahlela was also as excited about the workshops. A Grade 3 mathematics teacher from Diopong Primary School, Makgahlela said she found the workshops to be helpful and empowering. She said she gained insight into how to effectively and creatively explain new and often difficult concepts such as 2D and 3D shaped objects. Makgahlela said since she attended the workshops she has observed visible changes on the performance of her learners. They are now able to confidently draw tallies, analyse data and they no longer find financial literacy questions challenging, she said.