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Kagiso Trust’s District Whole Schools Development Programme: Matric Results 2018

Kagiso Trust’s District Whole School Development Programmes: Free State, Class of 2018 – implemented in partnership with the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation (in Fezile Dabi and Motheo Districts) and the Free State Department of Education

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Education Series Volume IV: Early Childhood Development in South Africa, 2016

The Early Childhood Development (ECD) report released by Statistics South Africa last week shows that of the nearly 8, 2 million children aged 0–6 who according to the Mid-Year population Estimates lived in South Africa in 2016, almost half 46{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} were living in households belonging to the lower household income quintiles (quintiles 1 and 2).

A breakdown by monthly household income quintile revealed that close to half of the children in the lower household income quintile did not attend educational facilities, while 40{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of the children in the highest household income quintile attended ECD facilities. The ECD report which is based on the findings of the General Household Survey (GHS) 2016, further shows that 48{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of these children lived in single-parent family structures where  46{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} were residing with only their mothers, and 2{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} with their fathers only, while 12{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} lived with none of their biological parents. Close to 36{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of children aged six or younger belonged to large households with more than six members; about 6{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} stayed in one-roomed dwellings and around 10{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} lived in dwellings which had no bedrooms.

According to the report, the majority of households in traditional and traditional areas had a disproportionately large burden of care for young children by grandparents and other family members. A large percentage of children were growing up in home environments that did not provide for communication or play to stimulate learning. Children in black African families were never encouraged to imitate daily activities 31{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} and 35{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} were never given answers when they pointed at objects and asked for explanations.

Most young children lived in households with poor access to piped water and improved sanitation. Only approximately 35{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} in Eastern Cape and 46{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} in Limpopo had access to piped water inside their dwellings or on site. In contrast, young children in Gauteng and Western Cape lived in households with nearly universal access to piped water inside their dwellings or on site (94{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} and 89{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} respectively). Only 57{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of children in Limpopo had access to improved sanitation. One in ten of young children stayed in dwellings with poorly constructed roofs or walls. The worst cases were experienced by children in Western Cape with 17{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of children living in dwellings with weak walls and 18{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} with weak roofs.

There was an increase in the percentage of children accessing the essential components of the ECD.  The most significant increase occurred in infant breastfeeding with 73{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of children under the age of one year being breastfed in 2016 while also consuming other food and 32{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} infants being exclusively breastfed.

Overall half of children between 12 to 59 months received vitamin A supplement. Approximately a third of children in Gauteng and Free State were stunted (34, 2{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} and 33, 5{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} respectively). In 2016, according to the Department of Health data, South Africa also had one of the highest low birth weight rate with 13, 3{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} occurrences of live births of babies under 2,5kg nationally. The country also had a high underweight-for-age incidence among children under two years old with 21{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} occurrences nationally in 2016 according to data from the Department of Health.

While child mortality has declined over the years, under five mortality rates were still relatively high at 44 child deaths per 1 000 live births in 2016. These deaths mostly occurred during the perinatal periods and were caused by respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. Close to 61{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of children less than one year of age had been immunised with all basic vaccinations. The incidence of pneumonia in children under 5 was 34{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd}.

The percentage of pregnant women who made their first antenatal visit before 20 weeks was 61{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd}. Overall in 2016, close to 76{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of mothers returned to the facilities for their sixth day check-up. Two out of three births (66{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd}) that occurred in South Africa took place at a health facility. The percentage of late birth registrations decreased from 12, 9{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} in 2010 to 3,4{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} in 2015. By March 2017, 4 931 544 children aged 0–6 had access to a child support grant. Out of these 9, 2{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} were one year old or less; the rest of the beneficiaries were aged 2–6 years.

Article Source: Stats SA


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Aspirations for Freirian Classrooms

Aspirations for Freirian classrooms – lessons for teaching and learning

Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ of the mid-nineteen seventies espoused an emancipatory philosophy which he conceived in the nineteen-fifties and -sixties. He recognised the academically ‘unfranchised’ Brazilian proletariat as being cognitively disempowered and hence rendered mute and by an education system that was dialogically deprived. The unidirectional deposition of knowledge by teachers resulted in the cognitive alienation of learners that resided in their muteness. Reflective practice was anathema for learners and teachers alike. Freire diagnosed that his people would remain forever critically voiceless within their poverty if teaching was not replaced by education. He deemed the engagement of teachers with learners, and learners with teachers through

Freire diagnosed that his people would remain forever critically voiceless within their poverty if teaching was not replaced by education. He deemed the engagement of teachers with learners, and learners with teachers through dialogic exchange as the remedy for liberating minds and for developing conscientised learners. Freire’s educational philosophy of emancipatory education through dialogic praxis, and his unintentionally semiotic literary methodology for eliciting classroom dialogue, resulted in the self-actualisation of many of his students, and their cognitive and social emancipation. Freire’s philosopy and methodology is more relevant in South Africa today than it has ever been in terms of its value for transforming education – for envisioning classrooms of the future. As South Africans we should strive for an education system that promotes the conscientisation of all our people, teachers and learners.

Freire diagnosed that his people would remain forever critically voiceless within their poverty if teaching was not replaced by education. He deemed the engagement of teachers with learners, and learners with teachers through dialogic exchange as the remedy for liberating minds and for developing conscientised learners. Freire’s educational philosophy of emancipatory education through dialogic praxis, and his unintentionally semiotic literary methodology for eliciting classroom dialogue, resulted in the self-actualisation of many of his students, and their cognitive and social emancipation. Freire’s philosopy and methodology is more relevant in South Africa today than it has ever been in terms of its value for transforming education – for envisioning classrooms of the future. As South Africans we should strive for an education system that promotes the conscientisation of all our people, teachers and learners.

Freire’s philosopy and methodology is more relevant in South Africa today than it has ever been in terms of its value for transforming education – for envisioning classrooms of the future. As South Africans we should strive for an education system that promotes the conscientisation of all our people, teachers and learners.

Conscientisation presupposes thought which presupposes language, and its vocabulary. Without the words that constitute concepts we have no capacity to engage at any meaningful cognitive level to enquire, critique or contest what we are taught. And this largely, from my mathematics vantage point, is where our learners find themselves. Our pedagogies are procedural and our expectations of our learners, therefore, cannot exceed a rote reproduction of fallible knowledge. As teachers, if we cannot expound a concept with an appropriate and exact language peculiar to the content then we indulge, sometimes inadvertently, in deceiving our learners. It results in a depositional pedagogy that is responsible for muting learners because they do not have the words with which to think or the language with which to become engaged in the process of education. Our charges trustingly receive contaminated knowledge that finds little cognitive resonance that ultimately renders them mute. Education requires of teachers their devotion and dedication to firstly emancipate themselves from their traditional perceptions of what teaching is about and secondly to relinquish the impoverished models of teaching which they witnessed and inherited while seated and facing their own youthful chalkboards. The reciprocity of the teaching-learning interchange stimulates engagement and conversation, and opportunities for learners to ponder content and question meaningfully.

Ours is a vocation – a service to humanity that requires the growing of a rapport that facilitates mutual trust between teacher and learner to ask questions that provoke thought and debate meaning. Our learners so often have the answers to the most searching of questions. We need to ensure that what we say means to our learners exactly what it means to us. Teachers and learners are equal participants in the educative process – we learn and teach each other. The implications are that we need as teachers to cultivate a humane mood of caring in our classrooms. We need to grapple with our subject content to the extent that nothing about what we teach is mysterious or intimidating. We need to learn how to ask questions that even challenge us. We need to develop our agency – and in critical realist terms challenge the status quo as revolutionised change agents.

So it is the imbibing of knowledge, internalising it and making it the cognitive threads of our corporeal fabric that moves us towards our self-realisation. Our classrooms need the invigorating contributions of its singular and collective minds. And the responsibility falls to our teachers to strive for cataclysmic metamorphoses.  Students in initial teacher education programmes need to be nurtured in the development of their potential agency and their subject prowess – ingredients that will breathe life into learning. And as classrooms become crucibles of teaching and learning so our teachers and learners will find their lost voices – and a confident identity. There will be time for questions, and time for answers. Life will take on new meaning where poverty will be one stepping stone closer to heaven, closer to the dream each one has for realising the freedom of knowing who they are and the aspirations they hold.

We need to hold dear the Freirian philosophy of education where dialogic classrooms provide for authentic conversations about who and what we are, teachers and learners alike. To be free to experience what it means to be heard and understood, and free to question until our minds are satisfied. We should never underestimate our charges, never be afraid of their questions. We must challenge them beyond the height of their potential. And to achieve this we must always remember that our expectations of our learners are directly proportional to our understanding of what we teach.


Dr Pete van Jaarsveld

Lecturer in the Wits School of Education

University of the Witwatersrand

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Invitation to Education Conversations

Topic: Our vision for South African education
Date: Tuesday 25 July 2017
Speaker: Deputy Minister of the Basic Department of Education Mr. Enver Surty
Venue: University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus Library
Facilitated by: Masechaba Ndlovu
To RSVP, please send an email to Chulekazi Charlie on ccharlie@kagiso.co.za
We look forward to hosting you!
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Mind your [Maths] Language

It is no secret that South Africa has a notorious track record when it comes to mathematics education. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) places South Africa virtually at the bottom of the pile of participating countries. South Africa’s own Annual National Assessment (ANA) reports show that of the national cohort of Grade 9 learners between 2012 and 2014, at most three percent achieved 50{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} or more on the assessment with the highest national average being 14{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} for this period. The National Senior Certificate (NSC) school exit level examinations annually report very poor results. For the nine-year period 2008 – 2016, an average of 33,5{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} percent of the learners who sat the examination passed with 40 percent or more, so 66,5{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of candidates scored less than 40{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd}.

In its reports on both the ANAs and NSC results the Department of Basic Education acknowledges that learners are ‘unfamiliar with mathematical terminology and properties and use them incorrectly’ and that they have poor algebraic skills. The reports further recognise that learners do not engage successfully with mathematical problems that require conceptual understanding. The perennial and lingering unsatisfactory mathematics performance by a vast majority of learners across all grades in South Africa’s classrooms is indicative of a systemic crisis. Add to this that teachers of mathematics are under- or unqualified, that their mathematics competence has been shown to be wanting, and by implication, their ability to teach the subject content is therefore also questionable, we have a dismal picture of mathematics education.

Mathematics education in South Africa is in crisis, has been for decades and the endemic must surely beg the question ‘For how long?’ An elusive answer must lie somewhere. Research identifies what is wrong, but seems not to have the power to ameliorate or remediate a serious problem. Annual reports of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) similarly diagnose in ritual fashion what leads learners to fail but they provide no prognosis or treatment of the symptoms. No amount of hard or soft technology thrown at mathematics classrooms, or malignant diagnoses, has produced a change to national mathematics performances.

The perpetuation of the status quo has several implications. Mathematics literacy compared to mathematics over the past four years alone has on average had 16{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} more candidates of the total enrolment for the NSC examinations. The reason for this difference is perhaps told by the comparison of the subjects’ pass rates. For the four-year period 2013 – 2016, mathematical literacy has an average of 53,2{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of learners who wrote the exam achieving 40{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} or more, whilst for mathematics, the equivalent statistic is 35,2{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd}. Schools’ pass rates are also increased by diverting learners toward mathematical literacy. There is the other push factor toward mathematical literacy – a paucity of teachers with the requisite subject knowledge to teach mathematics. Consequently, more learners opt for mathematical literacy because it offers a better chance of obtaining a matric certificate but the downside is that mathematical literacy has less buying power in terms of accessing science-related fields of study, or access to university.

Mathematics is important whether it be deemed elitist or not. It is a prerequisite for key vocational and occupational drivers of the economy, mathematics teachers among these. The sad thing is that mathematics is feared, and its elitist maligning comes as a result of those who speak about it, for it, or on its behalf – teachers – who do not know it or understand its language. They, therefore, misrepresent it.  At a level of personal justice, the biggest injustice is toward those who have an innate mathematical acuity but are denied a chance of being a champion of the subject. From perspectives of social justice mathematics in its current crisis cannot impact the economy and begin to relieve poverty.  Constitutionally education is called to free the potential of each person, and mathematics as part of that education fails horribly. There is no justice in mathematics education.

I allude to language in the previous paragraph and it is language that I wish to make the central issue of this article since I believe that language has the potential of realising personal and social justice in mathematics education. Being South African since 1994 means that we are familiar with eleven official languages. Of these English is the language of teaching and learning in most of South Africa’s classrooms, and according to students under my tutelage, the preferred language of teaching in initial teacher education courses. This means of course that most of South Africa’s learners are not taught in their mother tongue.  And in mathematics classrooms, mathematics, the universal language of the sciences is a language within the language of instruction. The compounded effects of the complexities of English as a second language, and the sophistication of mathematics as a scientific language causes me to posit that South Africa is not measuring up in mathematics because it is doubly, and possibly triply, misunderstood in the case of English as the language of teaching, an African language as mother tongue, and mathematics the universal language of science being in the discourse of any single classroom.

Language has been the focus of much research both nationally and internationally over the past decades. In the context of multilingual South African classrooms, the languages of learning and teaching are seen as resources where shared languages enable learners and teacher to revoice their understanding of mathematical content for the purpose of agreed meaning. Code-switching, the alternating of languages while in dialogue, for example, may use the term ‘idenominator’ and refer to its position in the fraction as ‘phansi’ meaning ‘down’ or ‘under’. In this case, the alternating languages would be English and isiXhosa. As useful as code-switching may be theoretically, language as a resource in its broadest application has the potential of creating confusion amongst learners in instances where the language of mathematics is tarnished by incorrect vocabulary.

For dialogue to be meaningful, there is the subliminal presumption that the object of the conversation has the same meaning for its participants. What one communicant accepts and understands as the object under discussion must be exactly the same as the other’s acceptance and understanding. I illustrate this point by an example of what transpires frequently in initial teacher education courses that aim at helping prospective mathematics teachers develop sound pedagogical practices. In mathematics, an expression and an equation are fundamentally different constructs, the former associated with a process of simplification and the other with a process of solution. One, therefore ‘simplifies expressions’ and ‘solves equations’. The terms, however, are used synonymously by a majority of my student teachers, with a leaning toward all mathematical objects needing to be solved, or a hybrid concoction of ‘solve the expression’. This shows that there is no agreed meaning of the words ‘equation’ and ‘expression’ when I am in dialogue with students. Transfer this scenario to an episode of teaching where a teacher does not distinguish between an equation and an expression and an entire class is then placed at risk of cognitive dissonance.

The language ‘of’ and ‘in’ mathematics is in sharp contrast to the resourcefulness of multiple languages used in the classroom. If the former is wanting then the authenticity of the latter is questionable. If one considers the language of the entire mathematics curriculum becoming progressively more sophisticated with increasingly advanced concepts, then the consequences and implications for understanding mathematics are far reaching. A fine-grained vocabular[1] knowledge is core and integral to understanding mathematics.

The Department of Basic Education recognises that learners in the NSC examinations (Matric) are not able to engage successfully with mathematical problems that require conceptual understanding. I suggest strongly, that for teachers and learners, an insufficient and inaccurate vocabulary store with which to assimilate and accommodate concepts is the root cause. We think in words, and construct concepts with them. And it is with these vocabularies that we are able to reason about mathematical objects and their relationships. That we think and reason with words and construct concepts with them are well respected Vygotskian notions on thought and language and we seem as mathematics educators not to have imbibed them.

The Department of Basic Education’s national annual diagnostic reports also acknowledge that the correct use of mathematical language in classrooms is problematic. Acknowledgment is insufficient though – it needs a strategy for implementation.

Paulo Freire’s work champions dialogic education. He emancipated the Brazilian proletariat from their muteness through transforming an education system from one characterised by the deposition of knowledge to one of authentic dialogical engagement between teachers and learners. What he achieved in the nineteen seventies is what needs to be achieved in South Africa in the sense that we need to liberate learners from their muteness, whether that muteness has its roots in oppressive practices, or deficient language with which to engage with one’s critical consciousness and contribute in communicative episodes. To realise this in mathematics classrooms congruent vocabularies of teacher and learner is an essential prerequisite. The practice of using exact mathematical language for teaching will empower learners to ask critical questions that are clearly understood.

The congruency of teacher and learner vocabularies is not only important for meaningful conversation. It carries responsibilities of ethical practices and moral obligation. As teachers, we cannot speak carelessly or sloppily about the mathematics we teach. Learners are dependent on us as being the more informed. They trust us to teach with intellectual integrity. We need to know the difference between and an equation and an expression and be able to explain it. It is incumbent on us to grapple with the essence of the words and language of mathematics we use as teachers to ensure meaningful discourse.

So how does South Africa measure up in mathematics? By current statistics on learner performance, and the capacity and competence of our teachers we do not measure up nationally or internationally in all grades across the school system. The hypothesis proposed here is that a broad focus on language without attention to precise use of terms, and understanding, will not make a substantial difference. By contrast, specific focus on concepts, and the associated terms, and the expression of these concepts verbally and in writing will provide the groundwork for more advanced mathematics.

Indeed, our studies into how language impacts the classroom, without the detailed attention to the precise use of mathematical terms, over the past two decades have not made a difference to the national landscape. The perennially poor outcomes in terms of the quantity and quality of our matric results are evidence of that. It may be time to lift a magnifying glass to scrutinise the exact language that teachers use in their classrooms. We also need to review textbooks with this precise use in mind. We may find that we are inadvertently involved with mathematical deception instead of nurturing mathematical conception.


Dr. Pete van Jaarsveld
Mathematics Education Lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand

Image credit: Lawrence University (lawrence.edu)

[1]  ‘Vocabular’ is coined as an adjective to qualify knowledge.



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Education Conversations sheds a spotlight on mathematics in South African schools

Why do South African learners perform so poorly in mathematics? What can we do to improve performance? Is maths still relevant in our current context?

These are some of the questions that Kagiso Trust attempted to answer at the latest instalment of Education Conversations, hosted in conjunction with the University of Johannesburg. Together with panellists Dr. Linda Zuze of the Human Sciences Research Council, Dario Fanucchi, technical director at Isazi Consulting, and consultant Nontobeko Mabude, the event – themed around ‘Mathematics: How does South Africa measure up?’ – examined findings from the recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS), and their implications.

Kagiso Trust

For Zuze, some of the most interesting data revealed by the study pertains to gender differences in terms of performance in mathematics, particularly as STEM subjects’ apparent lack of appeal for female learners has been well publicised. In fact, says Zuze, by the time learners reach Grade 9, there is relatively little difference in their performance; although in general, female learners tend to perform better in Grade 5. There is, however, a major difference to be discerned between the achievement of children at fee-paying, independent schools, who tend to perform better than those at non-fee paying schools. Added to this, boys were more likely to outperform girls amongst high achievers at fee-paying schools.

Zuze also commented on the fact that boys at non-fee paying schools were seen to have the lowest career aspirations (although this may be because they are open to less formal career paths). Girls are generally more ambitious in terms of their career goals; they are also more likely to discuss their concerns with a parent or other adult, and to benefit from parental involvement in their homework. A final observation is that although the incidence of bullying has decreased at South African schools, male learners still regularly experience bullying across all school settings.

The TIMSS findings were based on a sample of 12 514 learners, 334 mathematics teachers and 331 science teachers at 292 schools.

Kagiso Trust

Fanucchi’s answer to the question of whether South African learners measure up in mathematics is that we should not be looking at whether mathematics is considered difficult, but if it can be thought of as relevant in our current context. He maintains that the answer is yes, particularly as almost every action or item we encounter in our daily lives involves an element of mathematic calculation. The solution, therefore, is helping learners see this relevance for themselves. It may also help to strengthen the relationship between learners and teachers, so that learners are inspired to try their hardest while receiving the teaching support they require. Technology can also be employed to help foster understanding amongst students; even in schools where connectivity is an issue, cell phones may become a useful teaching aid, said Fanucchi.

Kagiso Trust

For Mabude, the challenge lies in addressing teacher challenges; the major obstacle being the fact that – at primary school level especially – teachers are not required to be subject specialists and are, in fact, rotated through various subjects on an annual basis. This inhibits their ability to foster the deep understanding of mathematics that is required in order to help learners address their concerns.

Although the question of how to address poor performance in mathematics is a complex and multi-faceted one, the panellists were in agreement that the perception of mathematics as a subject that is impossible to master urgently needs to be disproved. Learners should be made to understand that it is simply an extension of their innate logic, and therefore is within everyone’s reach. It is the responsibility of all involved in the education sphere to bring this to their attention, and to use their creativity to make mathematics more accessible.

Education Conversations is an attempt by Kagiso Trust and the University of Johannesburg to encourage greater stakeholder engagement in the creation of an effective public education sector; the goal being to move away from focusing on the pathology of the sector and instead foster debate about the initiatives that have proved fruitful.

Kagiso Trust Kagiso Trust

Kagiso Trust Kagiso Trust


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Five things every Matric learner should know

Kagiso Shanduka Trust (KST) recently visited 5 schools in Free State’s Motheo District to deliver the first in its series of Grade 12 Schools Talks. The talks aim to help learners in Grade 12 understand the challenges facing them in their immediate future, as they prepare for the tertiary stage of their education.

Kealeboga Moremba, Communications Officer for KST, hosted the talks, emphasising 5 realities that would prove useful to learners as they took the next step in their school careers. Moremba drew attention to the following points:

[ctt template=”4″ link=”N07QF” via=”yes” ]You do not need to attend a private school, or come from an affluent background, in order to be a high achiever[/ctt]

  1. You do not need to attend a private school, or come from an affluent background, in order to be a high achiever. You can create a great future, regardless of your past. Become an inspiring success story that motivates your community and fellow learners to pursue excellence.
  2. It is impossible to accomplish anything without hard work. Hard work helps you maintain consistency.
  3. Perseverance is critical. Even if you do not have a glowing academic record, it is never too late to give of your best – and when you start trying, you’ll start succeeding.
  4. Success is state of mind, but you need to get the foundations right. Nutritious foods provide fuel for body and mind, while rest and exercise are also vital. Reading up on study and exam tips can have a significant impact on your academic performance. You will also put yourself in a position of strength by reading up on tertiary institutions and finding out as much as you can about the career and qualification you are interested in and about university life in general.
  5. Don’t disregard the impact of peer pressure. Surrounding yourself with positive people will keep you motivated, but beware of those who might bring you down. As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.

[ctt template=”4″ link=”vdC3d” via=”yes” ]It is impossible to accomplish anything without hard work[/ctt]


The talks were held on 20 and 21 July, with Moremba and the KST visiting six schools in total: Popano Secondary School, Ntumediseng Secondary School, Leratong Secondary School and Kgauho Secondary School all in Botshabelo; as well as Tlotlanang Combined School and Strydom High School in ThabaNchu. The schools selected for the programme already receive curriculum support from KST.  KST distributed information packs sponsored by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Damelin College and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) to the learners who attended, containing crucial information on bursaries and careers.

The talks are being hosted as part of the KST’s aim to support South Africa’s youth and prepare them for the future, and their goal is to motivate Grade 12 learners and ensure they are ready for the tertiary phase of their education.

“We specifically chose to pilot this project during Mandela Month, as it is the time when South Africans consider how they can lend others practical assistance,” comments Kagiso Shanduka Trust Operations Manager, Kaya Nyati. The timing was also pertinent as matriculants are about to embark on the second half of their final year of school; a critical stage in their education.

“This isn’t simply about enthusing learners, but also about empowering them by informing them about the challenges they may face and helping them find solutions, as well as teaching them what they can expect from their first year as university students – important, because this is a stage of life and transition many learners find difficult,” Nyati concludes.


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Education in a Multilingual Society

The Education Conversations sees education specialists, parents and government address the issue of the implications of the language policy for the foundation phase learner.

What role does – or should – English play when it comes to educating children who speak a different home language in foundation phase? And what role should their home languages play?

These were some of the challenging questions posed in “Education in a Multilingual Society: The implications for the foundation phase learner”, the latest panel discussion topic in the series of Education Conversations hosted by the Kagiso Trust in partnership with the University of Johannesburg on 19 May 2016.

The discussion was facilitated by radio and television personality Masechaba Ndlovu, and the panel featured Haroon Mahomed, Director for Teacher Development at the Department of Basic Education; Karina Strydom, Co-Founder and Product Developer at Brain Boosters (providers of early childhood development tools) and Jemina Mosia, winner of the 2013 Award for Excellence in Education and educator at Makhaloaneng Primary School, one of the schools Kagiso Trust supports under its whole schools development programme, the Beyers Naudé Schools Development Programme.

Opening the discussion, Ndlovu noted that the issue of language in education remains a hurdle for many black South African children, with children struggling to grasp often complex concepts in a language that they are still grappling with.

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Nontando Mthethwa, Communications and Marketing Head at the Kagiso Trust, expanded on these thoughts in her opening address. “We live in a multilingual society, and language is used to acquire knowledge,” she stated, adding that the aim of our schooling system is to nurture well-rounded individuals. The problem, however, is that all children already speak a home language when they enter the system, and in South Africa, for the majority of learners, this is not English. Moreover, it will take a significant number of years to master a new language – and yet, during this time, this language will be used as the primary medium of instruction. In essence, she supported University of Pretoria Foundation Phase Teaching lecturer, Maryna du Plooy’s views that learners have to come to terms with three languages: their home language, which is an expression of the personal and emotional; a regional language which is a tool for social intercourse; and a global language, which is a symbol of achievement and self-actualisation.

Within this context, how can educators best balance the dynamic between home languages and English, the lingua franca, especially for children at the delicate foundation learning stage?

Karina Strydom was the first to present her argument, suggesting that it is, in fact, possible for children to learn in two languages. “Children in foundation phase find it easy to learn an extra language,” she explained, noting that the problem lies in the gap between home and school, as well as the big classrooms that characterise today’s schools. She maintained that the solution lies in ensuring that children master a thorough grasp of mathematical concepts early on – this being the biggest predictor of academic achievement – and that these concepts should be taught in English, thereby “killing two birds with one stone”. Strydom said that the principles of neuroscience, such as repetition, can play a key role in helping children learn.

Jemina Mosia’s presentation focused on her own experience in helping children learn English. Mosia explained that she teaches at a school where the most commonly spoken language is Sesotho. “I feel it is crucial to be multilingual,” she stated, indicating that it can be limiting to speak only one language. This is why she invested an enormous amount of time and effort into helping her learners master English, which is taught at her school as a second language level. Mosia scheduled extra lessons, using tools such as phonics, rhymes and storytelling – and successfully increased the school’s pass rate from 30{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} to 80{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd}, with one learner earning 82{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} at the Conquesta Olympiad in English as an additional first language.

Haroon Mahomed spoke next, expounding on the challenge from the perspective of government. He admitted that the issue of multilingual education is not a new one, but little progress has been made in addressing it since the 1980s. “Although English is spoken as a home language by only 8{48e0b5a3b794481190ad31c3810e457fc616f4313203886b242d01fbf54279bd} of the population, it is the dominant language of instruction,” Mahomed noted. This has given rise to significant problems: often, learners struggle to understand concepts, especially in maths and science. There is strong evidence that teaching in the home language can make an observable difference; for example, in schools in the Eastern Cape, where Xhosa has been used as the medium of instruction, high results have been achieved – but, said Mahomed, this is not an easy solution.

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“The Constitution enshrines our learners’ right to be taught in the medium of their choice, but few schools offer this,” he said. In the meantime, an effort is being made to ensure that English-speaking learners become adept at African languages through the Incremental Introduction of African Languages, intended to ensure that African languages become part of the curriculum where this was not previously the case. This will have the additional benefit of fostering social cohesion; however, capacity restrictions are inhibiting this programme from moving forward. Mahomed said that ideally, learners should be able to complete their primary schooling – or, at the very least, a number of subjects – in their home language. The problem, however, is that there are not enough quality teachers to help make this a reality. Thus, short-term interventions are required: for instance, the status of indigenous languages should be raised (as English – the lingua franca, is generally thought of as more prestigious than African languages), while the quality of English teaching at foundation levels must be strengthened. He said that it would also be important for NGOs and the private sector to lend their support to the issue.

During the panel discussion, a number of issues were raised, highlighting the complexity of the issue. For example, the reality is that English is the global language, and South African has chosen to participate in the global economy; thus, a level of proficiency is required. At the same time, the growth of the Internet spurs this on, as this is an English milieu. That said, language is integral to who we are, both as people and as a nation, and a monolingual society is not desirable.

A number of different approaches were debated, including providing bilingual exam papers or introducing English early as a second or first additional language.

Ultimately, concluded Themba Mola, Chief Operations Officer at the Kagiso Trust, this is the sort of dialogue that the Education Conversations aims to stimulate.

Although there are no easy answers, it’s critical to engage people around the topic: “by fixing our foundation phase education, we may be able to improve our pipeline,” Mola said.

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The role of infrastructure in early childhood development

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SAFM engaged KST on a panel discussion looking at “The role of infrastructure in early childhood development.” This had a strong focus on Grade R.

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