Making a Mathematical Difference where it Counts

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Teachers registered for UKZN’s Math130 course.

As part of its community engagement programme, UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science is offering Saturday lectures to high school Mathematics teachers to assist them upgrade their maths skills while completing the semester-long Math130 course – the same module taken by first year students at the University. 

The initiative is the brain-child of the Dean and Head of School, Professor Kesh Govinder; Mathematics education expert, Dr Aneshkumar Maharaj; and UKZN Distinguished Teacher, top-rated researcher and Academic Leader for Mathematics, Professor Simon Mukwembi. 

A team of dedicated fellow-lecturers and tutors including Dr Ojen Narain, Mr Eddy Kimba Phongi and Mr Komi Afassinou provide valuable assistance. 

Successfully piloted – with an 80% pass rate in 2013 – in conjunction with UKZN Extended Learning, the 2014 programme is being run thanks to sponsorship from Eskom and Buckman Africa. 

‘Every university has a social responsibility to the community,’ said Mukwembi.  ‘As a university, we do not want to be just an ivory tower.  We want to partner with communities to develop a cadre of professionals who are properly skilled to address contemporary socio-economic challenges for our country’s development.’ 

Mukwembi’s view was corroborated by guest speaker Mr Yasin Brijmohan of Eskom’s Tertiary Education Support Programme (TESP).  ‘Worldwide, people with an increased knowledge of mathematics are able to solve problems,’ said Brijmohan.

About 25 high school Mathematics Teachers from around the province registered for Math130 for non-degree purposes (NDP).  They will spend six months being put through their paces before they write their exams at the end of the year. 

A course participant, Mr Sandile Sikhosane of Mazwendoda Secondary School in Impendle, said his love of Maths and his desire to upgrade himself motivated him to sacrifice his Saturdays and make the long journey to Durban.  ‘I am the co-ordinator of Maths in my area,’ said Sikhosane.  ‘I want to teach teachers at poor performing schools so that they can improve their teaching.’  To assist him in this initiative, he has introduced a Facebook Maths tutoring programme. 

Chief Education specialists in the Department of Education, Mr Irshad Motala and Mr Moses Mogambery, have spread the good news about Math130 for teachers in a variety of KwaZulu-Natal high schools,  ‘I tell the teachers that to know more than your learners feels good,’ said Motala. 

Govinder explained the rationale behind the programme: ‘This initiative is an attempt to address the poor Mathematics competencies of matric graduates. Solving this national problem can only be achieved in a holistic manner.’ 

He said it was pleasing to see Industry and the Department of Education partner with UKZN in an attempt to solve this serious problem.  

‘It is also an enormous testament to the teachers that they are sacrificing their personal time (without financial reward) in order to better serve their learners,’ he said. ‘We can all learn from their sterling example.’