Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Gilmour, John [1], Thorhaug, Anitra [2], Ramphele, Mamphela [3].

South African LEAP Schools STEM programs excell at national exams during COVID-19 using cell-phones for learning adaptation during 2 years.

Is it possible to reimagine a world in which the digital divide has closed and every school-going child in Africa has access to the internet? Is this feasible despite UNESCO’s finding 104 million youth have dropped out from the African systems? The LEAP Science and Maths Schools of South Africa believes that this is achievable.  We have unlearned old assumptions  and created active agile responses to empower children to take control of their own individual learning journeys, using cellular mobile devices. The 6 LEAP schools, working in four severely economically-challenged regions in South Africa, used cell phones during COVID-19 government mandated shut-down in March 2020. None of their families possess computers. The LEAP Schools, working in 6 township communities of South Africa have implemented the cell phone digital intervention with remarkable impact on children working only with phones – staying connected in support groups, receiving work instructions and attending virtual lessons on WhatsApp, and completing assessments online. Connected children remain self-liberating as they control their own access to teaching and learning and support friends to do so. Teachers monitor students’ online learning activity via back-end processes, including reviewing student online task time for any day, establishing students’ online learning patterns. The 2021 academic year created unanticipated changes in lockdown conditions throughout the year. The LEAP Schools’ objective was to continue to empower students through raising consciousness and developing metacognition coupled with learning STEM skills. The LEAP students’ resilience was activated and self-reliance sustained by connectedness. 228 LEAP students of 236 (97%) candidates passed the Matric. This was 21% higher than the national average in public and private schools. 83% of the LEAP cohort achieved a university admission pass vs. 36% in public schools. 100 % of LEAP students studied Mathematics as a subject while only 30% of total national cohort studied mathematics in public and private schools. Only 5% of students in public schools in the same economically-challenged communities served by LEAP Schools, gained access to university. Drop-out rates, particularly high for public school secondary female students from challenged-economic backgrounds were zero for LEAP students during the COVID-19 period. During the COVID period LEAP Schools showed an increase of 14.5% in pass rate as opposed to public schools for whose learners no improvement occurred during the COVID-19 period. We attribute this to rapid adaptation and effective use of cell-phone technology by teachers, parents, and students. The LEAP Schools demonstrate that all African children potentially may have access to information, online lessons, assessment tools, enrichment material, global information and social media. This is every child’s right if we unlock the capacity of each child to have access to the internet in their hands whenever required, instead of imagining African schools as limited locations where digital learning happens. The impact is inclusive – all rural, disabled, and marginalised children can have widely-opened gateways to learning. “One child, one cellular device.” “All teachers digitally preparing and caring.” We suggest that this method can change the pathway forward in Africa.

1 - LEAP Schools, Crawford, Cape Town, WC, 7760, South Africa
2 - Greater Caribbean Energy and ENvironment Foundation, 1359 SW 22 Ter Apt 1, Miami, FL, 33145, United States
3 - Reimagine Foundation , 3 The Grange, Camps Bay, Capetown, 8040, South Africa

STEM education Africa 
Ubuntu MATH education
COVID-19 STEM education AFrica 
Female STEM scores on National tests 
LEAP Methods Science &Math.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: EO1013
Abstract ID:335
Candidate for Awards:None

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