The education system in South Africa is failing. According to the most recent World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report (2016), the quality of the South African Education system is ranked 137th among 139 nations, with the quality of its maths and science education ranked 139. While the official national high school pass rate in South Africa in 2017 was 75.1%, education experts such as Nicholas Spaull whose blog on education is widely read and discussed in South Africa, note that the official pass rate masks the fact that teachers and schools let fewer (low performing) students reach and write the matric exam, which artificially inflates pass rates. According to Spaull, the real pass rate for 2017 is 55%. Many students drop out of school before grade 12 and South African learners are already performing significantly below international standards as early as primary school. For example, the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) found that 78% of South African Grade 4 students could not read for meaning in any language (vs. 4% in the United States), and the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that 61% of Grade 5 learners could not add and subtract three or four digit whole numbers. Moreover, these statistics are averages and there is significant disparity in educational quality and student performance in poorer, black South African townships and better-resourced (predominantly white) suburban schools.
In 2004 and at the suggestion of The Scalabrini Centre, a Cape Town-based NGO that helps refugees integrate into South African culture, a group of teachers who had emigrated
from other African countries founded the LEAP Learning Centre. The Centre’s purpose was to offer free math and science tutoring to disadvantaged upper primary and high school students from the Langa Township. From inception, the Learning Centre was supported by LEAP Science and Maths School, a network of independent, no-fee schools in South Africa that promote equal access to quality education by giving marginalized youth from townships the academic and life skills they need to become future leaders. In March 2015, the LEAP Learning Centre became The Ithemba Lethu Learning Centre (Ithemba Lethu means “hope”), an independently registered non-profit organization (NPO). It continued operating under the umbrella of LEAP through December 2016, but is now running as an independent organization. What makes the Ithemba Lethu Learning Center unique is that all of its tutors are individuals with advanced degrees in math and science-related fields, which results in a higher level of teaching for these important subjects. Ithemba’s current leader, Sammy Ntumba, was part of the first group of teachers referred to LEAP by the Scalabrini Centre and brings over ten years of experience as the Teacher and Learning Centre Director to his role as Director of Ithemba.
EMpower’s 4th grant to Ithemba Lethu Learning Centre would support weekly tutoring in math and science for 1000 upper primary school students and 290 secondary students from Cape Town township schools, where teachers are poorly trained and classrooms are overcrowded, to strengthen their academic performance in these subjects, while also providing a computer literacy program for 120 upper primary students to help prepare them for secondary school.
Primary Location: Cape Town
Funded Since: 2016
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