AIMSEC presented their third fully online course, Mathematical Thinking (MT2) Online Course, from 28 August to 11 December 2021. This fourteen-week professional development course was sponsored by AECI and presented on Google Classroom with WhatsApp support.
From across the country seventy-five mathematics teachers took part in the course: forty Senior Phase (Grades 7 – 9) and thirty-five FET Phase (Grades 10 – 12).
Seven provinces were represented with the number of teachers per province indicated in brackets: Eastern Cape (sixteen), Free State (two), Gauteng (five), KZN (two), Limpopo (forty-five), Mpumalanga (two) and Western Cape (three).
All Quintiles are represented with the number of schools per Quintile given in brackets: Q1 (thirty), Q2 (nineteen), Q3(seventeen), Q4 (six), Q5 (two) and Independent School (one).
The breakdown of the race and gender for this group was:
RACE: 70 Black – 4 Coloured – 1 White = 75
GENDER: 37 Males and 38 Females = 75
Seventy-five students registered but eleven subsequently withdrew bringing the total down to sixty-four. The dropout rate was 11/75 = 14,7% and the performance rate 55/64 = 85,9%. There were twenty-four distinctions, thirteen merits and eighteen passes giving a total of fifty-five who successfully completed the course. The course is endorsed by SACE for professional development points.
The challenges faced due to COVID are summarised for the following groups of people:
Teachers (our MT 2 Online students) were overworked and had to stand in for colleagues who were absent after either contracting COVID or because of the death of close family members due to COVID related complications. The DBE predicted that between 50% and 75% of the curriculum would not be covered by schools in 2021. Teachers had to try and catch up on lost work by giving regular extra lessons after school during the week and over weekends. They found it difficult to set aside five hours per week to work through the Study Guides. Teachers from deep rural schools also experienced network interruptions on their cell phone networks.
Learners did not attend school fulltime. Some learners only went to school twice per week. The rise in Covid-19 cases disrupted the stability and routine schools provide for learners. Learners also faced great challenges dealing with their mental health regarding deaths in family, existing mental health issues and questions on where life would take them after school. The pace of learning was significantly slower due to the pandemic. The provisions set by the government in terms of social distancing conditions such as the student body attending schools on a rotational basis with certain grades attending school one day and another grades the following day exacerbated the reduced pace of learning. The removal of the human (physical) component of face-to-face interaction between teachers and learners was very disruptive.
All the above challenges resulted in a bigger than expected number of teachers not completing the MT 2 Online course.
To quote from the speech of our top student, Mary Mukotami, during the closing ceremony on 11 December 2021:
“Today I would like to say to the great AIMSSEC team, to our sponsors AECI and to all the stakeholders, a big thank you for making us the tip of the iceberg, for changing our teaching strategies for the better, something that we couldn’t do on our own as we thought we were the best teachers in our own classrooms. Our success today is a result of the time you have invested in making sure that all the modules (Pedagogy, Geometry, Algebra, Statistics and Probability) were available to us at the right time and containing the information that we really need in our everyday teaching and learning. Not forgetting the Information Technology side where you really lifted us to be closer to the demands of the present classroom. The effort you have put in sourcing for the resources needed to make sure that each one of us as students got equal access to knowledge, information and technology and remain connected throughout the course. This will never go unnoticed. The time you all spent and invested in preparing different videos, assignments, quizzes, weekly tasks and tests. All what this means to us is that you never rested just to empower us to remain useful in our profession. This might look small to you but to us it’s a milestone. All your efforts have lifted us to be closer to the demands of the 21st Century educator in a 21st classroom.”