Denel helps maths, science pupils


Ray Maota

Denel is improving the quality of
maths and science results at Steve
Tshwete Secondary School in
Olievenhoutbosch, a sprawling
informal settlement south of
Centurion, in Gauteng, through a
specialised training programme.
(Image: Laboratory News)

The Augusta A109 Light Utility Helicopter
is one of many products from Denel,
South Africa’s arms manufacturer.
(Image: Denel)

• Sinah Phochana
Denel: Group Communications Manager
+27 12 671 2662 / +27 79 511 6257

High school pupils are getting help to improve their mathematics and science results from the South African arms manufacturer, Denel, through a specialised training programme.

The programme started in 2008 and benefits nearly 80 pupils a year. Mike Ngidi, Denel’s human resources and transformation group executive, said: “Denel is contributing to an improvement in the quality of maths and science teaching through outreach programmes and additional tuition offered to learners in disadvantaged areas.”

A group of 44 engineers working in the aerospace and defence industry give up their weekends to share their knowledge of these essential subjects with pupils in grades 8 to 11 at Steve Tshwete Secondary School in Olievenhoutbosch, a sprawling informal settlement south of Centurion, in Gauteng.

“Through our education programmes, we are opening new study and career opportunities to deserving students – especially in the engineering professions,” said Ngidi.

Continuity of school syllabus

There has been a remarkable improvement in science and maths results since the Denel Training Academy chose Steve Tshwete Secondary School as its project school.

The school’s principal, Takalani Ndou, said: “We have recorded five maths and science distinctions in two years – an achievement not earned before in the school’s short history.”

The programme is run in conjunction with the school’s teachers to make sure there is a continuation with what the pupils are doing in the school syllabus.

Venashree McPherson, the people development manager at Denel Dynamics, said: “Our intention is to promote engineering as a career choice for school leavers through our tutoring programme and the provision of bursaries to deserving students.”

The pupils who attend the classes are given study guides, stationery and bags.

One of those who went through the programme, Kgaugelo Mokholwane, received a bursary from Denel Dynamics in 2011 to continue his studies at tertiary level, while another learner won a national maths quiz run through the social network, MXit.

McPherson said the programme would continue to grow, with the expectations of even better results in the future.

Ngidi added: “Through our involvement in education projects at high school level, we hope to inspire a new generation of future engineers, technicians and artisans who will enable South Africa to maintain its high-tech leadership position.”

Maths and science improvement strategy in Gauteng

It is not the only measure being taken to raise the level of critical skills. The Gauteng Department of Education has outlined a number of objectives to improve the quality of mathematics, science and technology (MST) education in the province.

These are outlined in the MST Improvement Strategy Paper of 2009-2014, which reads: “Quality in mathematics, science and technology education is an ever-increasing requirement for the development of skills needed in modern economies.

“As the hub of the South African economy, Gauteng needs to ensure that school leavers entering into higher education and industry are adequately prepared in these subjects.”

Objectives include: strengthening MST teaching in all Gauteng schools, which focuses on continually developing teachers’ teaching skills; improving the provision of MST resources, which involves the adequate distribution of MST textbooks and other learning and teaching support materials to schools; providing programmes of learner support in MST, which includes a range of initiatives to improve learner achievement through in-class and supplementary programmes; and, improving the management of MST teaching and learning, ensuring that there is a positive and conducive environment for MST education in schools and districts.

Dinaledi Schools Project

Maths and science were made priority subjects over a decade ago by the education department. The Dinaledi Schools Project was started in 2001 by the department to increase the number of matriculants with university-entrance mathematics and science passes.

The strategy involves selecting high schools for Dinaledi status to increase learner participation and performance in mathematics and science, and provide them with the needed resources and support.

Dinaledi means “stars” in Setswana. The Department of Basic Education set aside R70-million (US$9.1-million) for the Dinaledi schools programme in 2011/12; this is expected to reach R105.5-million ($13.7-million) in 2013/14.