An innovative partnership between OLICO and the Datatec Education and Technology Foundation is bridging the education divide so all may conquer an all-important STEM subject
Johannesburg, 13 September 2023 – A WhatsApp Maths Hotline established by renowned education non-profit OLICO Maths Education is adding significant value to learners in KwaZulu-Natal.
The hotline, which first emerged as a means of staying connected to schoolchildren during the hard lockdown in 2020, has subsequently proved to be the perfect formula for improved maths results.
By simply sending a WhatsApp message to 0600 39 00 00, a learner is granted direct access to a trained maths tutor for Grades 7-10, thousands of maths worksheets and tutorial videos, as well as automated lesson pathways on key maths concepts.
Thanks to OLICO, which enjoys the backing of the Datatec Education and Technology Foundation, more than 15,700 South African children have accessed the hotline this year alone.
OLICO co-founder and executive director Andrew Barrett says while the service is available nationally, the organisation has been working especially closely with district officials and rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal’s Amajuba District to optimise its use.
“When Grade 9 learners in our KZN partner schools started algebra in the second term this year, they were also instructed to participate in an ‘Algebra Challenge’ on WhatsApp when they were at home. The Algebra Challenge mirrored what the teachers were doing in class and provided an opportunity to reinforce the prior content knowledge of learners,” he explains.
“When learners got stuck on the challenge, they could ask to speak to a human tutor who could then diagnose the issue and guide the learner towards a deeper understanding. This is just one example of the kind of impact the hotline is making in the province.”
Syanda Phakathi, a Grade 9 learner at Bethamoya Senior Secondary School in Newcastle, believes any child using the service will see an immediate improvement in results.
“The help is really good and I’m thankful for everything the Maths Hotline does for me.”
The hotline stands as a unique offering in that there is no other solution like it for low-income communities in South Africa.
“The intention is not a ‘drop-and-run’ or once-off solution. It is a consistent support system for learners as they move through their maths backlogs and grade-level curriculums,” Barrett says.
He expects some 25,000 learners will have accessed the Maths Hotline by the end of the year.
Thabile Mandane, Responsible Business Coordinator: People and Communities at the Datatec Education and Technology Foundation, says the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal negatively impacted more than 630 schools. The looting that followed affected a further 144 schools and learning centres.
“These events led to the loss of crucial teaching and assessment time in the province. We recognise that for KwaZulu-Natal to make inroads in its recovery journey, a multi-stakeholder approach is required.
“The introduction of the OLICO WhatsApp Hotline combines a low-tech tool and a structured education approach that can reach and support more learners virtually by providing access to lesson plans, worksheets, an online maths portal and skilled tutors.”
The Foundation’s partnership with OLICO extends beyond the Maths Hotline and is just as successful in other areas.
In 2022, the 69 matrics falling under the organisation’s programme achieved a 96% pass rate, with 74% of that class confirming enrolment in post-secondary studies or youth employment programmes.
The Foundation has also partnered with the PROTEC Pietermaritzburg Academy to further support learners from KwaZulu-Natal’s underprivileged communities to improve performance in maths and science subjects.
To ensure that youth have access to quality education, regardless of their background or economic status, the Datatec Education and Technology Foundation follows a future-led approach to fund educational organisations whose purpose is to empower and equip young people with the skills needed to participate more inclusively in our economy.