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Student using WhatsApp to assist learners to bridge gap

Mthandeni Sithole, who is finishing his Bachelor of Commerce, specialising in Mathematics, Finance and Mathematical Statistics at the University of Cape Town. Picture: Supplied

Mthandeni Sithole, who is finishing his Bachelor of Commerce, specialising in Mathematics, Finance and Mathematical Statistics at the University of Cape Town. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 7, 2021


Cape Town - While the pandemic has been a roller coaster ride for many pupils across the country, a final year BCom student saw an opportunity to utilise WhatsApp as a means to bridge the gap between access and quality education for pupils who come from disadvantaged communities.

Mthandeni Sithole, who is finishing his Bachelor of Commerce, specialising in Mathematics, Finance and Mathematical Statistics at the University of Cape Town, first started helping pupils with their studies from his grandmother’s house, but as time went by, he saw the need to assist more children who were in dire need, and that is where is vision began.

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“It all started at my grandmother's home in 2018 when I was only helping three Grade 12 learners from my high school when I stayed there for a week. However, when I saw that more children needed help, it inspired me to assist all the Grade 11 learners in the following year, and that is when I formed a team, and we then assisted 128 learners from my high school in the Busana High School premises for seven days during the winter holidays.”

“Since then, we saw the need to help more children, and we formed the Dub’s Mathematics Programme providing free Mathematics, and other subjects like English, in order to help learners from under-resourced communities who cannot afford to hire private tutors. Although much criticism came with the idea of using WhatsApp, we at the Dub’s Mathematics Programme saw it as an affordable and easily accessible tool to share knowledge and give hope to learners during these unprecedented times.”

“It is no lie that learners from rural communities do not have access to different kinds of learning platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams because they are expensive mainly due to data costs, but because WhatsApp is used by everyone, it was more accessible, and it made it easier for learners in rural areas to partake.”

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With the world taking a digital approach to learning, English tutor Thabisile Mzila said that WhatsApp allowed a large number of pupils to join because it was accessible, and pupils were able to text her whenever they wanted clarity on a certain subject matter.

“Online learning is so imperative, especially as we are living in the digital age. This method of learning allowed someone in KZN to engage with learners from a variety of South African provinces and more learners were able to partake in this initiative so that they could be assisted to improve their marks without having to pay a cent.”

“Additionally, we realised that the CAPS curriculum hadn’t done enough to assist learners with career guidance. Most learners from rural communities are not yet exposed to different careers out there. They only know medicine, nursing, law and education. This also increases the unemployment rate when graduates’ skills do not match the occupation’s requirements because not everyone is well informed. Hence, we use WhatsApp to give career guidance where we can and share knowledge to those who are vulnerable to falling through the curriculum.”

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“Taking part in this initiative made me realise that it only takes your time to help others. I enjoyed working with the learners as we ended up interacting with academic, social and even personal matters. Through the two weeks, I learnt that you don't have to share similar genes with somebody to call them a family and helping those who are in need in this manner leaves one feeling joyful because I get to make a change in someone's life,” said Mzila.

Grade 11 pupil at Khayelitsha Bulumko Secondary School, Sisipo Gigi, said this method has made learning easy because she got to learn in the comfort of her environment where your mind was more relaxed because during the pandemic nothing felt more safe than home.

“At school, we have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, so it is difficult for students like me who take time to understand something to actually grasp everything in one go. So Dub has helped by explaining those topics, and they gave us quizzes and tests based on what we know and understood in order to stimulate our knowledge and give us good study methods to help us cope during these times.”

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“This programme is helpful in so many ways because the tutors not only helped me with my studies but also helped me in choosing the right path after high school. We had a career expo whereby there were people like Mr Myeza from Sehlukosami foundation and Ms Ndlovu who were very motivating and helped us in choosing the right career path.

What Dubs is currently doing is very inspiring because many pupils are currently struggling academically and to have young people by our side to guide us is uplifting, and for that we’ll forever remain grateful,” said Gigi.

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