Listen and learn: airwaves keep SA’s rural matrics tuned in

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Listen and learn: airwaves keep SA’s rural matrics tuned in

Limpopo’s top teachers, big business and community radio stations put Grade 12 pupils in virtual classrooms

Journalist
The Limpopo education department, provincial radio stations and big business have turned to traditional radio to keep thousands of matrics up to date with their school lessons.
back to basics The Limpopo education department, provincial radio stations and big business have turned to traditional radio to keep thousands of matrics up to date with their school lessons.
Image: jakkapan/123RF

Since the national lockdown, the classrooms of a handful of Limpopo matric teachers have suddenly morphed from scores of pupils to literally thousands overnight, many of whom they have never met before.

As government battles to find a solution to how to get children back into the classroom again, big business and the provincial education department have banded together to help keep Limpopo’s nearly 1.7 million children learning.

Key to this is not the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology, smartphones, cellphone apps, TV, or live-streaming programs.

Radio School has exploded in Limpopo, with six of the province’s top teachers using provincial radio stations, including Capricorn FM, Sekhukhune FM and Tubatse FM, to teach matrics.

Rather it is the good old traditional radio.

Radio School has exploded in Limpopo, with six of the province’s top teachers using provincial radio stations, including Capricorn FM, Sekhukhune FM and Tubatse FM, to teach matrics.

The Limpopo education department says helping matrics and thousands of other pupils to carry on learning are big businesses such as Vodacom and Kagiso Trust.

Mashudu Marubini, who teaches at Thengwe High School near Thohoyandou and is one of the country’s top mathematics teachers, said radio school was making a huge difference.

“It’s not just the children from my school who are benefiting. My ‘classroom’ has suddenly exploded in size. Now I’m teaching a few thousand children every day, most of whom I have never met.

“Mathematics is an incredibly challenging subject which pupils cannot do on their own. This kind of assistance really helps.”

He said the increase in questions from pupils he received on a daily basis showed that more and more children were tuning in to radio school.

Marubini said while there were many learning channels on TV, not everyone in rural areas had access to TVs.

“Radio bridges the gap created by the lockdown. This allows us to continue to teach, even though it is in a different way.”

Radio bridges the gap created by the lockdown. This allows us to continue to teach, even though it is in a different way.

Samuel Madzhia, a life sciences teacher at Taxila Secondary School in Nirvana outside Polokwane, said such teaching was vital if children were to cope with the rest of the school year.

He said the rate at which he received calls while teaching showed that many pupils were listening to the lessons.

“The questions I receive have grown from a handful of pupils asking questions in the first week of April to dozens calling in to the radio stations every day with questions.

“Although I feel pity for the children not being able to go to school, it’s exciting to know that I can assist so many children through radio.”

Kagiso Trust CEO Mankodi Moitse said the idea behind sponsoring radio school was to ensure that regardless of where children lived they could continue to learn.

“The country’s rural areas are particularly hard hit by poverty, which is why we decided to focus on the education in rural provinces.”

Mankodi Moitse, Kagis Trust chief executive officer.
Mankodi Moitse, Kagis Trust chief executive officer.
Image: Kagiso

She said Covid-19, which had caught everybody by surprise, had forced people to think out of the box to ensure education continued.

Moitse said they quickly realised the price of data and lack of access to TVs limited children’s ability to learn under lockdown.

“We realised while not everyone has TVs or smartphones, almost everyone has radios.

“What is so powerful about radio, especially community radio stations, is that children can listen and learn in their vernacular.”

Moitse said while radio was not a substitute for face-to-face learning, it bridged the gap until schools reopened.

“Together with the department, we assist teachers for an hour every day to provide maths, science, technology, geography, history, business, accounting and language lessons.

“The plan is to expand lessons to three hours a day.”

Tidimalo Chuene, Limpopo Education Department spokesperson.
Tidimalo Chuene, Limpopo Education Department spokesperson.
Image: Whatsapp

Tidimalo Chuene, Limpopo education department spokesperson, said given that the province was largely rural, radio was vital in reaching the province’s 1.67 million pupils.

“While some pupils have access to smartphones, they often don’t have access to data. Radio is the main medium in the province, and pupils do not have pay a cent to access this platform.”

She said six subject teachers had been selected for lessons on radio.

“These teachers have recorded an 80%-and-more pass rate in the subjects they have taught since 2017.”

Chuene said several big businesses such as Kagiso Trust and Vodacom, along with the SABC, were helping the department provide lessons to the province’s schoolchildren via commercial and community radio stations.

“It is not only lessons which are offered but also support services to teachers and parents.”

She said the coronavirus had forced the department to explore different communication opportunities to ensure that children could continue to learn under the lockdown.

“The plan is post lockdown to continue with this.”