Science and maths beamed to a rural school near you

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Science and maths beamed to a rural school near you

Jeff wicks

Melikhaya Jacobs’ smile is bathed in bright blue light emitted from a screen in his rural KwaZulu-Natal classroom that he hopes will forever change the course of his life.
This interactive smart board, along with a stable internet connection, allows science and maths lessons to be beamed into his classroom from a different province.
The Shea O’Connor Combined School has been propelled to the forefront of e-learning – a far cry from the worn floors and leaking roofs of the classroom that houses the state-of-the-art laboratory.
Jacobs, a 19-year-old matric hopeful, is among the first in the province to be inducted into the Ligbron e-learning programme which sees maths and science classes live-streamed from the Ligbron Academy studio in Mpumalanga to 30 underperforming or rural schools around the country.Pupils in each school communicate by video link, and can even write on their interactive board.
The scheduled classes have to log in for lessons as per an attendance register monitored by a central control hub in Ermelo.
Class notes and learning material are circulated via dropbox, loaded two days ahead of the scheduled class.
School principal Nicholas Nxumalo said the project, funded by donors, would have a significant impact on the lives of his pupils.
“We want to welcome this with both hands. Our school, being a quintile 1 school, is one that is struggling,” he said.Quintile 1 
A quintile 1 (or Q1) school caters to the poorest 20% of pupils. These are pupils who fall below the government target for minimum for school allocation, which was calculated at R703 a year in 2006. Conversely, quintile 5 schools cater to the least poor 20% of pupils.“Having this state of the art facility gives our community and our pupils an opportunity to see what we can do, perhaps to further explore their potential.”
Nxumalo outlined the challenges facing his school, painting a picture of overcrowding and under-resourcing.
“We have a shortage of classrooms which has forced us to convert a library into a classroom for mathematics. The enrolment in grade 12 is such that in one classroom we have 64 pupils,” he said.“The teachers are overloaded when it comes to marking and engaging with the pupils. I am hopeful that this project will make a huge difference in elevating academic performance and it will further boost the morale of our teachers,” Nxumalo added.
The mere presence of the high-tech labs and the smart boards made pupils eager to come to school, he said.
The project has several sponsors, including tech giant One Digital Media, boutique hotel Fordoun Hotel and Spa and private school Michaelhouse.

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