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DINALEDI PROGRAMME (article first published : 2007-10-26)

The Zenex Foundation have announced a R10-million partnership with the Department of Education’s Dinaledi programme aimed to increase learner performance in maths, science and language. The grant was issued in response to a call from the Department for private sector support to enable it to reach the goals set by the Dinaledi programme.

To launch the project, the foundation commissioned an original dramatic production from the Market Theatre Laboratory in Johannesburg, which uses song and drama to illustrate the message.

“We couldn’t think of a more fitting way to illustrate the relevance of language than using the medium of drama and song,“ says Zenex Foundation CEO, Gail Campbell. “Learning maths and science is about so much more than just numbers and facts. Without the basis for understanding and meaning provided by proficiency in language, learning would be impossible.”

The Market Theatre Laboratory was founded in 1989 by the late Barney Simon and John Kani. The Laboratory is the Training and Development wing of the Market Theatre. They aim to provide a life-changing drama education experience that is committed to innovative and indigenous theatre through identifying and developing young acting, directing and writing talent.

The Zenex Foundation’s commission was approached as an open brief by the part-time children’s class, consisting of aspiring actors who are themselves learners grappling with the issues of the drama. “We were given three key messages to unpack,” says Nana Mthimkhulu, the group’s teacher. ”The children then approached the drama as an industrial theatre piece, developing the script and core scenes simultaneously. This is one of the most challenging forms of theatre, but we felt it was the most fitting and authentic way to approach this message.” The participants were able to bring their own classroom experiences into the piece.

A report released last month by the Centre for Development and Enterprise, paints a chilling picture of the current status quo with regard to maths and science pass rates in South Africa. Only 14.7% of educators in the subjects have the minimum requirements to teach them, while only 4.8% of students who wrote the senior certificate examinations in 2006 passed maths at higher grade level.

The partnership between the Zenex Foundation and the Department of Education is significant for two reasons. This allocation represents the largest single injection of private sector funding into the Department of Education’s flagship programme and follows the recent announcement of shocking statistics in the field of mathematic and, science. It also represents the first time that a formal intervention has been put in place that recognises that language and English literacy hold the key to unlocking success in the learning and teaching of these subjects. Maths and Science are a prerequisite to further study in Senior Certificate qualifications in maths and science are required for entry into further education opportunities in medicine, scientific research, engineering, information technology, accounting and a host of other technically based occupations.

Poor language skills among both teachers and learners have been identified as one of the key factors that impact negatively on mathematics and science results. For this reason the Zenex Foundation is supporting the development of an English programme for Grades 10 and 11 that is similar in nature to the Dinaledi mathematics and science programmes. The programme for English First Additional Language has been developed by the Institute for the Study of English in Africa at Rhodes University. It includes a 36-week work schedule that guides English teachers through the curriculum. The materials have been uploaded to the Thutong website, the Department of Educations Portal, www.thutong.org.za for the benefit of all schools.

The Zenex Foundation also agreed to pilot the training and distribution of materials to selected Dinaledi schools in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Gauteng and the Western Cape. The pilot programme is being rolled out in 65 schools and will reach 280 teachers.

Dinaledi is a programme implemented by the Department of Education to develop secondary schools as centres of excellence in the teaching of mathematics and science. In 2006, Dinaledi II was launched, with the purpose of identifying learners who are talented in mathematics and science.

The service providers who are introducing the Zenex-funded programme in four provinces are the English Language Educational Trust (ELET), the University of the Witwatersrand’s Professional Development Unit, and the University of Cape Town’s School Development Unit.

In the pilot programme, sufficient numbers of textbooks are being supplied to reach every Grade 10 and 11 learner in these schools (15,298 and 15,364 learners respectively). Every participating English teacher will receive theoretical training along with core reference resources. Each teacher will also receive classroom support visits and mentorship support visits from English language experts. In addition, each school in the pilot receives a start-up classroom library kit to support the introduction of an extended reading programme. The Zenex Foundation staff has been working very closely with the National Department of Education and the Dinaledi co-coordinators in the various provinces to facilitate the rollout of the programme.

The Zenex foundation distinguishes itself from other grant making bodies by the commitment of its entire budget strictly to the fields of Maths, Science and Language education in South Africa. Since 1995, the Zenex Foundation has disbursed some R237-million in the South African education sector. The impact of this expenditure has been evaluated through extensive research and enquiry, and important lessons have been learnt about how donors can support the improvement of learner performance at school level. The results of a high-level research review show that interventions need to focus on project design, impact and the respective roles of donors and government. More information from Taryn Cohn on 083 671 5139 or email: taryncohn@acenet.co.za




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