JumpStart responds to South Africa’s foundation phase maths crisis

Learning to count!
South Africa faces a maths crisis. JumpStart is committed to ensuring that foundation phases learners get skills to keep their education on track.

Earlier this month, the bleak news of the international TIMSS study 2019 registered with South African educators and parents. It’s hard to comprehend that a staggering 63% of Grade 5 learners lack basic maths comprehension. This means that they are unlikely to succeed in higher grade mathematics. The root cause of this problem is a lack of foundational phase numeracy: children need to grasp numbers and master basic concepts by the time they start Grade 4. It’s a question of getting the basics right in the early grades.

“The negative impact on their long term education is severe, but as grim as these statistics are, there is a solution that offers hope on a grand scale,” said Callen Hodgskiss, General Manager of the JumpStart Foundation.

JumpStart addressing the maths crisis since 2014

“Since 2016, the JumpStart Foundation has been addressing foundation phase numeracy in 20 schools in Katlehong, with another five schools coming aboard in 2021,” said Programme Director, Jabu Thomo. “The earlier Sasolburg programme, which caters to 10 schools, has run since 2014.”

In as little as 18 months we’ve seen significantly improved numeracy outcomes – as per independent evaluations by the University of Johannesburg. These observations are based on annual assessments in all our schools and evidence shows that JumpStart adds a full year of learning for children by the time they finish Grade 3. Our NumberSense programme recently received the MTN Award for Social Change in recognition of excellence in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) practice.

Key ingredients

Learners and teachers in township schools face unique challenges that JumpStart have addressed in an exceptional way. The use of maths workbooks adapted to the large classroom environment are one the keys to changing maths outcomes – as is the support teachers in township classrooms. We support teachers like Mrs Nondumisa Macala and Mrs Funeka Phakade. We train unemployed local matriculants, like Given Msibi and Pule Morobi, to become teacher assistants so that children get the individual attention they need to master mathematics.

Thomo explained further: “Our NumberSense workbooks allow pupils to learn at their own speed, and at their own level, which takes pressure off of teachers in large classes. The JumpTrak app ensures that tutors continually monitor learners’ progress, keeping teachers informed of where learners are struggling, enabling their prompt response. By monitoring each learner’s progress in real time we provide the differentiated level of information needed to adapt to individual learners needs.”

Bursaries for these youth enable them to qualify as the next generation of educators. During lockdown, tutors like Tumelo Mokoena, Simphiwe Mtshali and Abongile Mhlola helped parents like Madintle Kubere via whatsapp groups to continue maths education at home on smartphones.

Partnering with the Department of Basic Education

We work closely with school communities and the Department of Basic Education to address the maths crisis at foundation phase. Our current goal is to expand the programme into all 144 primary schools in the Ekurhuleni South District. This is a work in progress, which will benefit from additional funding. We need partners to expand this vital work now.

Collaboration & Funding

JumpStart sees the ongoing collaboration with school communities, the Department of Education, funders and other NGOs partners essential in finding solutions for the country, to leverage available resources, and secure the funding necessary to scale improvement in mathematics.

“The support we received initially from Sasol for ten schools in Zamdela set us on the path to scaling this solution to the maths crisis in foundation phase,” said Hodgskiss. “The support from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation led to our expansion in Ekurhuleni South District. This support helped us to refine how we monitor what is happening in the classroom using tech tools, as well as funding the impact evaluations.” Programme Manager, Jabu Thomo said, “We have assessed 3000 learners every year for the last four years against a control group, and now have the confidence that our programme works and feel ready to scale.”

Be part of the solution

JumpStart is now ready to scale and seeks funding support to remedy the mathematics crisis at foundation phase in South African schools. Your financial support will enable us to expedite a solution! Please email Betty Oliphant for more information.

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