DEDICATED: From left, Phakama Gcabo, Mike Sibiya and Molladi Maseloane not only tutor science and maths, but open pupils' eyes to the benefits of learning.  Picture MARTIN RHODES
DEDICATED: From left, Phakama Gcabo, Mike Sibiya and Molladi Maseloane not only tutor science and maths, but open pupils' eyes to the benefits of learning. Picture MARTIN RHODES

TEACHERS in underperforming schools in Gauteng will be given an opportunity to upgrade their mathematics and science teaching skills, after Vodacom last week launched an information and communications technology centre that makes educational resources available through cloud computing.

Many education experts contend that when teachers are underqualified, they often have to rely heavily on educational resources during teaching. The Department of Basic Education has indicated that about 15000 teachers are underqualified, teaching with less than a three-year degree.

The centre, launched in Pretoria, is one of nine such centres that Vodacom intends to construct in each of the provinces, part of its broader Vodacom Mobile Education Programme.

Twenty underperforming schools in Gauteng - achieving less than a 60% pass rate in last year's matric examinations - have been selected for intensive training at the centre. It would also make available resources for 1400 teachers in other schools across the province.

Leading e-learning service providers Microsoft, Cisco and Mindset Learn partnered with Vodacom to provide the centres with software, programme content, certification and training, as well as curriculum content.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said last year when the matric results were released that the national department remained concerned about the number of passes in mathematics - 104033 nationally last year - which was less than the 124749 of 2010. The national pass rate for mathematics was 46,3% last year, a decline from 47,4% from 2010.

In Gauteng, 45% of those who wrote maths last year passed.

Gauteng education MEC Barbara Creecy said at the launch that despite teachers often being "intimidated" by technology, information and communications technology resources offered an opportunity to improve the teaching of mathematics and science.

The intimidation came with many teachers having been "born before this technology", however information and communications technology offered "equality of opportunity" for pupils at a time when inequality in the schooling system persisted, she said.

These interventions, and the technology, could form part of the province's drive to not simply improve pass numbers for mathematics and science, but actually ensure that pupils progressed to pursue these subjects in university, Ms Creecy said.

Vodacom's executive head of corporate social investment, Mthobeli Tengimfene said the operation of the centre with the underperforming schools could serve as a case study for how teachers wanted to use, or did use, information and communications technology in the classroom.

Once these benefits were demonstrated, such centres could "create the demand" for teaching aids that could easily be provided through an internet connection, Mr Tengimfene said.

A report released last year by the Centre for Development and Enterprise said SA was producing few teachers, especially in key subjects such as maths and science.

gernetzkyk@bdfm.co.za