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As the fourth industrial revolution becomes reality on a global scale, the need for learners to master STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects has never been more important.
According to STEMblogSA, this revolution will create more jobs than technology displaces, but STEM skills will be more critical than ever, given that between 65% and 85% of jobs that will exist in the future, currently do not exist. STEM subjects don’t just equip learners with know-how about how jobs in the future will work, it teaches them critical and creative thinking to navigate this space.
In South Africa, the importance of STEM education is vital. The country lags behind a lot of other nations in the world in equipping its youth with STEM knowledge; in 2019, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked the quality of South Africa's Maths and Science education last out of 148 countries.
This shortfall has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is accelerating the need for digital transformation across corporate, government, education and non-profit organisations across the country.
The virus and the resultant national lockdown have made this year for school learners the most challenging of their lives. For most of the school year, learners (with access to digital resources) have had to take lessons remotely, submit exams and essays from home and – perhaps most important of all – have not been able to socialise with their friends from school.
In the face of these challenges, learners have persevered; schools have set up remote learning lessons, conducted exams and made every effort to make sure the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the school year as little as possible. While these efforts are to be applauded, they probably can’t lessen the pressure many learners feel about their school year – particularly those learners who are writing their Matriculation examinations.
Learners in 2020 are in uncharted territory and the pandemic has thrown privilege into sharp relief. While some children have been able to continue their school year with a slight interruption, lack of access to data or online connectivity has made 2020 more difficult for most.
It’s for this reason Cell C has partnered with youth development company Primestars and its YouthStart Foundation as part of the #SavingTheClassOf2020 project, which is geared towards helping under-resourced learners across South Africa, prepare for their final exams. They will collaborate on the EDUCATE IS A COVID-19 RESPONSE campaign with Cell C participating as the digital partner to the Matric Maths and Science Revision programme, named eduCate. Cell C has also zero-rated an online platform specifically created for the project.
“Under-resourced public schools are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, and by not coming to their assistance, we are exacerbating inequality,” says Martin Sweet Managing director of Primestars
“Our educational system needs help teaching problem solving, critical thinking and creativity,” he says. “As the Private Tutor to public education utilizing cinemas at theatres of learning, we are reinventing education to provide the skills necessary to create a more prosperous and inclusive future for all.”
eduCate covers the entire matric Math and Science curriculum and the weekly cinema lessons are simultaneously broadcast to 17 digitized cinemas across the country, over 10 weeks.
Learners also interact with subject experts who are available at each venue to address questions from the learners. Each learner receives a revision textbook as well.
“We decided to begin a movement, with the support of the Department of Basic Education, to contribute to saving the class of 2020 and we focused on Matric Math & Science which – based on previous results – represented the biggest need,” says Sweet.
The programme will be launched with other stakeholders including business, media and government then rolled out to thousands of matriculants on various platforms, including cinema, in-school and online, across the country.
“The STEM education of young learners in South Africa is part of Cell C’s DNA, says Juliet Mhango, Cell C’s Human Capital Development and Transformation Chief Officer. “From Take A Girl Child To Work Day, to our Data Science Academy and Cell C Bursaries, we make every effort to empower our youth. We’re proud to partner with Primestars and YouthStart Foundation on #SavingTheClassOf2020, to help learners complete their final exams in what has been a very challenging year.”
“These are extraordinary times that demand extraordinary responses and Cell C, Primestars and Youthstart Foundation are driving a movement of like-minded individuals and organisations that will step up and help to get our learners back to academic productivity – safely. It is up to citizens to create the change they seek by making education a pivotal part of COVID-19 response,” she says.