Technology and mentoring key in UFS approach to learner success

The University of the Free State (UFS) has been changing the lives of high school learners through its Internet Broadcast Project (IBP). The project was established in 2011, with the vision of taking quality education to all learners across the Free State province, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.

The UFS IDEAS Lab, located on the UFS South Campus, is home to the IBP. Every day, the IBP transmits lessons to 83 schools spread across five districts in the Free State for learners in Grades 8 to 12. Learners also have electronic access to this material, which is presented for more than 15 school subjects.

The benefits of technology

A collaboration with the university and the Free State Department of Education, the project includes support for subjects such as Mathematics, Physical Science, Life Science, Economics, Accounting, and Geography. The technology provided at each school allows learners to communicate with the presenter in the studio during a broadcast at no cost to the school or learner.

“The UFS is proud to be associated with the Department of Education and salutes it for the many initiatives in schools across the province, which contributed to outstanding matric results,” said Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor.

In 2017, Free State MEC for Education, Tate Makgoe, made special mention of the IBP for the role it played in contributing towards the best matric results in the Free State for the second consecutive year. Other former successes of the IBP include the announcement of the project as the winner of the 2015 Enterprise Video Award (EVA) in the category Video in Education Scholarship. This makes it two in a row, since the IBP also won an EVA in 2014 for Innovation in Pedagogy.

Motivated by dreams of something better

Makgoe said that part of the success of the province can be attributed to the project. Many of the top-performing schools had learners who participated in the IBP. In 2017, the Xhariep District, one of the districts forming part of the project, was named the top-performing district in the province, and second in the country.

“Dreams and goals that you set for yourself are what keep you motivated, even if you are on the verge of giving up. Your dreams will motivate you to work harder and keep going,” says Lefu Matlala, a former IBP learner from Lefikeng Secondary School in Botshabelo. Lefu successfully used the IBP to support his learning and matriculated as one of the top five in the province in 2017. Through the help of the IBP and his teachers, Lefu scored 99% for Mathematics, 96% for Physical Sciences, and 85% for Geography.

Social Responsibility Enterprises

The Social Responsibility Enterprises (SRE) focuses on the mentoring of teachers in order to make a sustainable impact. A total of 78 schools in the Free State, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape benefit from this programme. SRE mentors assist school principals with school management, while teachers in Mathematics, Physical Science, Accounting, and English as a language of learning are assisted in mastering of curriculum content, pedagogy, and classroom management. The project has an annual budget of more than R15 million – all of which comes from sponsors outside the UFS.

Mentors visit schools and share knowledge, extra material, and technology to improve the standard of teaching. The change has been significant. Matric results, Mathematics pass rates, and Physical Science pass rates have improved dramatically in these schools. Another aspect is the identification of learners with potential (so-called first-generation students) to go to university. They are assisted through extra classes and in applying for tertiary education and bursaries.

Many of them (782) are currently studying at the UFS, and also receive mentorship at the university. HS van der Walt, Head of Social Responsibility Enterprises, says his team is proud to be part of the process of helping the Free State to become the No 1 province in the country again.

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