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School closures driven by COVID-19 have presented major challenges for learners everywhere – including a group of past matriculants who were hoping to use this year to improve their poor matric marks, to gain access to university.

Thanks to the introduction of high-tech maths and science support platforms at their school – a joint venture between Nelson Mandela University, North-West University and the North-West Department of Education – more than  200 learners have a real chance at achieving their dreams to become future engineers, doctors and teachers.

“You have a really powerful set of instruments in your hands, so you can be prepared and have great success at the end of the year,” said North-West Province University’s Prof Hercules Nieuwoudt, addressing the group at the launch of the GammaTutor Resource Support Programme at the Mathematics, Science and Commerce Centre (Masccom), an upgrading centre for matrics in Mafikeng. 

The technology-blended approach used in the new support programme is the brainchild of Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC) and is already being used in schools across the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal to help learners improve their maths and science marks during the COVID period.

Among the technology in the new programme are 80 GammaTutors, which are offline digitalized teaching and learning devices, which can be linked directly to any digital screen, data-projector or TV. Apart from specialized teacher resources, the GammaTutors are also loaded with GMMDC’s innovative TouchTutor app for learners, which includes video lessons, PowerPoint presentations, self-tests and multi-language support, all linked to the Grade 10 to 12 school curricula for maths and physical sciences. Learners can also use GMMDC’s MobiTutorZA app, which is an online version of the TouchTutor app, for use on mobile phones.

The centre will also make use of WhatsApp groups and interactive Zoom sessions to provide further support to teachers from the Masccom centre. 

“The learners will be able to use the mobile plug-and-play support platforms after school, as part of a technology-assisted peer support (TAPS) programme. This essentially provides structured support at the school or anywhere else for self-directed learning,” said GMMDC director Prof Werner Olivier. Teachers at the school have also been trained to use the Gamma Tutors and MobiTutorZA as teaching aids in their classrooms.

“The Masccom project initially began as an emergency plan when the COVID-19 lockdown started in March,” said Olivier. It started as a separate learner support project, where North-West University used its eFundi teaching and learning support platform together with some of GMMDC’s GammaTutor resources, to enable prospective engineering students  to prepare for successful access to university studies in 2021.

“The new support platforms at the Masccom centre are similarly aimed at improving the maths, physical sciences or life sciences marks of second-chance Grade 12 learners, who completed matric in the past, but whose marks were not good enough to access professional degree programmes at university.

“We are also setting plans in motion to use this technology-based approach to help in-service health workers and other working professionals across the country, to gain access to university courses that need maths and science to upgrade their qualifications.”

“We have been waiting for [support such as] this for a very long time. We are very happy it has come,” said Masccom principal Nthabiseng Kawadza.

The Masccom project is sponsored by the Nedbank Eyethu Community Trust.

Nelson Mandela University’s Prof Werner Oliver (front, fifth from left) and Arnold Gwaze (second row, left), together with North-West University’s Prof Hercules Nieuwoudt (front, fourth from left), train learners and teachers at the launch of the technology-based Gamma Tutor Resource Centre at Mafikeng’s Masccom centre.




Contact information
Prof Werner Olivier
Director of GMMDC
Tel: 27 41 504 4743