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Saving the class of 2020

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This webinar on #SavingTheClassOf2020 was sponsored by Primestars. Guest speakers included Angie Motshekga, Minister of Education; Nozizwe Vundla, Head of the Sanlam Foundation; Richard Bonginkosi Buthelezi, HOD for Maths at Tisand Technical High School; Martin Sweet, Managing Director at Primestars and Nkosinathi Moshoana, Director of YouthStart Foundation.

Starting September, on Sunday mornings at your local mall, you might see buses transporting hundreds of teenagers pull into the parking lot. You’ll watch them file out, masked and sanitized, and walk through the mall into the cinema. Keeping open chairs between them, they’ll take their seats in front of the big screen.

But unlike how this may appear, these youngsters won’t be there to watch the latest thriller. They’re participating in a focused programme to help them pass matric.

Martin Sweet, Managing Director at Primestars

The programme is “a national leading matric Math and Science Revision Programme which covers the entire curriculum,” explained Nkosinathi Moshoana, the general manager of Primestars, which is the organisation that runs it. Known as Educate, the programme was “created to prepare matric learners in under resourced schools to excel in their final examinations”.

Students watch presenters explain concepts and go through exam questions on the big screen, while also being given access to textbooks and past papers. 

Speaking at a Mail & Guardian webinar, Moshoana said these weekly cinema trips will help matric learners increase their final maths and science marks by 10% on average.

Education experts have personally witnessed the success of the programme. Through the years, there’s been feedback from headmasters, from heads of department, from maths teachers and from the learners themselves saying how well the programme has helped them do in mathematics and science.

Richard Buthelezi, the head of department for mathematics at Tisand Technical High School in Richards Bay, said his matric maths pass rate has had a massive jump, from 48% in 2015 to 71% in 2019.

Nkosinathi Moshoana, Director of YouthStart Foundation

“This would not have been obtained if it had not been through the support that we were getting from the Educate programme,” told Buthelezi. The cinema has proven to be a very effective learning environment for his students, and the presenters are excellent, he said.  As a teacher participating with his students, Buthelezi has also benefited.

“The value for teachers is huge,” he said. “I normally carry my tablet and I take pictures of what they are saying. Their methodology … impresses me a lot. When I get back to school, we talk about it.

“This programme has proven to be a very good programme for my school.”

The 10-week Educate programme is created to help get matric students who have fallen prey to the disruption of the pandemic, back on track for their final exams. Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga told M&G webinar listeners that final papers have already been set based on a full year’s curriculum, and that would not change, she said.

“In terms of the number of days that we have lost, we’ve tried to claw back as much as possible,” she said. The final exams will now start in December instead of October, which “gives us at least some full two months to make up the three months that we have lost.”

Motshekga said that after liaising with teachers and education experts, “we are confident that by the time they write exams we would have recovered lost time and we would have made up for lost hours through longer hours and no [holiday] breaks for them”.

The provincial education departments have helped Primestars to identify the “lower quintile” schools that need the Educate intervention most. These are the schools where buses will be pulling up to fetch students every Sunday morning starting in September.

In previous years, Primestars would pack each cinema to capacity, allowing the maximum number of learners to benefit from the Educate programme. But Covid-19 has changed all that.

Richard Bonginkosi Buthelezi, HOD for Maths at Tisand Technical High School in Richards Bay

“Usually we put 120 to 250 learners in a cinema,” said Martin Sweet, founder of Primestars. “These days, because of social distancing, we can only put 50 learners in a cinema. We normally put 60 learners in a bus; these days we can only put 23, maximum.” In addition, they need to provide visors and sanitizer to the learners.

To help carry the additional costs, Primestars is appealing to corporates join a group of current sponsors to support the programme, in a movement they’ve dubbed #Savingtheclassof2020.

Nozizwe Vundla, Head of the Sanlam Foundation, said that it was a “no-brainer” for the financial services company to get involved. “Skills from maths and science are absolutely crucial in the fourth industrial revolution and youth employment creation,” she told listeners. “It’s strategic for us as Sanlam, but it’s also strategic for the entire private sector and for the entire country as a whole, if we are to develop beyond where we are [now] as a country.”

Nozizwe Vundla, Head of the Sanlam Foundation

Vundla said thatthere is a capacity in the cinemas for 60 000 seats. “We could potentially add more matrics to our programme if others come on board.”

Primestars founder Martin Sweet said that public-private-partnerships were the only way that the country could help youth achieve the success they deserve.

“The need is real, the challenge is great, but … through strengthening the investment in education and forging the partnerships that you see today, we all can play a part in creating opportunities for sustainable change in the education space,” said Sweet. “And in so doing, build a space for a more prosperous and — very importantly — inclusive future for the generations of tomorrow.

‘Please, join us in saving the class of 2020,” he said. “We have more capacity in the cinemas, we have a phenomenal programme, and we need your help.” — Thalia Holmes

For more information visit: https://primestars.co.za/

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