Empowering maths and science teachers

In order to help capacitate mathematics and physical science teachers in the King Cetshwayo District Municipality, the University of Zululand recently held its third Maths and Science Educators Seminar at the institution’s Science Centre. 

Held in conjunction with the UNIZULU Science Centre and the district Department of Education, the seminar is a UNIZULU drive that is geared towards improving the pass rate of maths and physical science in the district.

Gcina Nhleko, Communications and Marketing Director in the Communications and Marketing Division, gave context to the inception of the workshop during the first day’s plenary session. She said: “We realised that the school liaison team which is under our division always participated in the Department of Education’s career exhibitions and fairs. But there was always something that was bothering us. We wondered who was capacitating the teachers because the learner may be empowered but who is looking after the educator?”

As a starting point, the University, in 2017, organised a seminar for principals in high schools around the district in order to find out how the institution could be of service to them. The principals were unequivocal in their responses, saying that the dwindling pass rate of maths and physical science needed quick intervention. In response to the issue, the Maths and Science Educators Seminar was piloted in 2018. According to Nhleko, the feedback from both teachers and the various stakeholders has been positive, hence the continued annual engagements with teachers.

In his guest speech, Professor Sipho Seepe, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Institutional Support, emphasised that the importance of teachers in our society cannot be overstated. “When we talk about relevance at university, we talk about total empowerment of our students and the teachers play a greater role,” he said. He urged the teachers to make sure that pupils get excited about maths and physical science in order to increase the number of blacks in maths and science professions. 

Tony Moodley, a representative of the Department of Education in the district, alluded to the fact that the partnership with the University was crucial. He said: “As the district office, we are very concerned in particular about the performance of these two subjects. We had 7500 pupils in grade 11 last year who did mathematics. Six thousand three hundred and thirteen (6313) of them failed mathematics but they are in grade 12 this year. For science, we had 5 655 who passed grade 11. Two thousand four hundred and fourteen (2415) failed science.”

Moodley added that though the district had a seemingly impressive matric pass rate of over 70%, when one looks at the performance in individual subjects, they can easily realise that there is a crisis. It is interventions such as that of UNIZULU that will therefore aid in alleviating this problem.

Nozipho Buthelezi, a teacher at Zakhekahle High School, said it was her second time attending the seminar and on both occasions, she felt really empowered by the facilitators. This year she said she learned so much about the interpretation of graphs. She felt excited to go back and teach her learners as she had previously not been confident in teaching this section. The seminar was attended by over 120 teachers from over 100 schools.

Over 100 Maths and Science teachers from schools within the King Cetshwayo District Municipality attended the 2020 leg of UNIZULU’s Maths and Science Educators Seminar.