After just two months of Flying Cows of Jozi support to integrate the online Siyavula Maths & Science platform, two schools in our Greater Taung project feature in the national Siyavula Schools Leaderboard for Physical Science, with one of the teachers in first place! The Leaderboard tracks which school earns the most points (or atoms) based on most questions answered correctly. We interviewed the teacher in the Nr 1 position to find out how she achieved this amazing result and learned how her learners’ pass rates have improved.
Mrs Violet Nira, who originally comes from Zimbabwe, has been a Physical Sciences teacher for 25 years. Since 2008 she teaches at Mammutla Secondary School in Kameelputs Village in Greater Taung, a poverty-stricken rural area in North West Province. The main economic activity is in mining and retail work, 99% of income in the area comes from social grants. Few learners choose Physical Sciences as a subject because they are scared of it, thinking it is too difficult. Violet’s Grade 10, 11 and 12 classes only hold between 10 and 12 learners. Interestingly, the girls far outnumber the boys, the Grade 12 learners are exclusively girls who realise that mastering Physical Sciences opens doors to a future as engineer, pharmacist or doctor.
The school lockdown and rotational time schedule as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in huge backlog for her learners and Violet found that most learners didn’t do much work at home, due to bad connectivity and lack of data.
When did you start working with the Siyavula platform?
Last year Violet received an SMS with an invitation to sign up to the Siyavula platform. She had a brief look at the platform after signing up but she didn’t become active until she attended the 2nd webinar of the series offered by Flying Cows of Jozi in August this year. Fearing that she’d already fallen too far behind she quickly signed up all her learners. She found the easiest way was to download the Siyavula app on the learners’ phones and tablets because that ensures that the learners access the platform data-free. Not all her learners have their own phones but they quickly made a plan to use the phone of a parent or sibling.
How did you get your learners to become active on the platform?
After signing them all up Violet started encouraging the learners to practice on the platform. In the Flying Cows of Jozi webinar she learned how to create assignments and she quickly realised that this was the best way to integrate the Siyavula practice in her classroom. She learned that the best assignments are those with just a few questions to be answered in a just a couple of days. Violet taught her learners to be on the look-out for the little red dot in their Siyavula screens alerting them to a new assignment and she reinforces this alert with WhatsApp messages. Every time she sees her learners she reminds them to do their Siyavula practice and she actively monitors their work on the platform, calling out those learners who don’t seem to be practicing.
What is the impact of practicing on the platform for your learners?
Violet actively promoting the platform created excitement amongst the learners. She finds that they enjoy using an app for their revision instead of boring textbooks. And the learners encourage each other, many of them go from just practicing the easy questions to choosing the harder levels. When a Grade 12 learner picked up that one of her classmates went from failing to passing her exams, she started practicing so hard that she’s now at the top of her class leaderboard.
And at the end of the day that is the purpose of the platform, practice makes perfect as Violet’s Grade 10 learners show: their pass rate went from 57% in Term 2 to 75% in Term 3!
Would you recommend Siyavula to other teachers?
“Siyavula makes my life easier!” says Violet. Every day she sets some time in her schedule to work with it, setting up assignments and checking the learners’ progress. You can even do it on the go, in the taxi for example. Just make it part of your daily practice like checking your social media, she advises. The platform does the work for you since you don’t have to come up with questions yourself and the platform marks the assignments for you. In the communication with your learners make it part of your everyday language, when you meet with the learners in person and on WhatsApp.
What was the impact of our Flying Cows of Jozi support?
The Flying Cows of Jozi support makes all the difference to Violet. In the weekly webinars, all the relevant elements of the platform are presented and the daily messages and tips in the WhatsApp group keep her encouraged and informed. Having Flying Cow Rendani Nemakonde available as dedicated digital skills coach is valuable, she’s always on hand to clarify issues and answer questions.
Do you want to support teachers in rural areas like Violet and her colleagues to use digital tools in the classroom? Please visit https://gogetfunding.com/flyingcows/ or contact us at email@example.com.