The Impala Post Matric Programme in mathematics and physical science, based at Fields College in Rustenburg and now in its fourth year, is designed to support engineering–and science-oriented matric students to progress to higher education. The programme lasts for a year and helps students to acquire the necessary background and achieve the results that will enable them to enter, and to be successful in, tertiary level education, studying engineering, science or technology.
The programme begins a week before government schools open for the start of the year. Tuition begins at 07:30 each weekday morning and ends at 16:00 in the afternoon. In addition, students are expected to attend evening and Saturday sessions from time to time.
One criterion for access onto the programme is that students must have taken physical science at the higher grade (HG) level for matric. According to the Impala Social Development manager Tina Malau, this criterion acts as a form of natural selection: “In our experience pupils who haven’t studied Physical Science HG at school have found the course exceptionally difficult.” Another criterion is that learners should have attained at least a D symbol in English (second language) HG. Language proficiency is a major factor with respect to the learning of mathematics and physical science, and to achieving success in higher education. The post-matric programme includes an English language proficiency component.
Although in principle the educational programme is open to all, and each student is judged according to merit, the course was conceived with historically disadvantaged communities in mind.
“The students generally work much harder than they do at school,” says Piet “It’s a full programme and we work the students very hard. In that sense it isn’t quite like school — it is something between school and university. One of the aspects of this programme is that we try to give the students the kind of experience they will have at university, so they will be more prepared and have a more mature outlook when they get there.”
Houses within walking distance of the school are rented for student accommodation for the duration of the programme. The youngsters eat breakfast and lunch at the school during the week, but have to look after themselves in the evenings, thus encouraging them to be self-reliant and independent — traits that will be of great benefit to the learners when they enter tertiary education.
Typically, students who obtained F and G symbols for mathematics and science in the matriculation examination achieve C symbols, and higher when they rewrite the national matric examinations at the end of the post-matric year. In addition, the course aims to help learners improve their study skills in order to further their chances of success in higher education. Seventy-two students have so far completed the programme, 43 of whom are currently at university studying engineering, physical sciences or technology. Some former students are expected to achieve their degrees/diplomas later this year.
“This is where we really count our successes,” says Tina. “We look at our matric results and we’re proud of them. Last year we had 24 learners, 20 of whom achieved C symbols and higher in both maths and science. Out of the 24, we had nine A and seven B symbols. This is good but it is not yet reaching the aim. Our aim is that they graduate from university with degrees in engineering and science.”
In the educator development programme, in-service training is provided to develop and enrich teachers’ knowledge as well as improving the application of their knowledge. Owing to the legacy of South Africa’s past, many current teachers were not afforded the opportunity of studying at university and received relatively poor training. However, all teachers on the programme are keen to deepen their knowledge of their subjects, a passion which is bolstered by weekend workshops and seminars.
In the learner support programme, selected learners in Grades 10, 11 and 12 from schools in the Rustenburg area are provided with extra-curricular opportunities to strengthen their knowledge of mathematics and physical science.
Implats has made a substantial capital investment by contributing several million rands to the building of classrooms and laboratories at Fields College. The condition was that the facility could be used as a base to run the Mathematics and Science Post Matric Programme, thus an additional sub-block was built specifically for the project.
Implats believes that this programme is key to educating and training potential employees. However, this programme is not run purely for the benefit of the company, as many of the participants are recruited by other companies. It is also Implats’ aim to provide similar projects in labour-sending areas – to be run in conjunction with recruitment programmes. By pooling talent from different areas Implats will, increasingly, be able to employ highly skilled and well trained individuals from historically disadvantaged communities, a boon for not only Implats but for South Africa as a whole.
There are significant employment expectations from communities surrounding Implats’ mines. The intention of the Mathematics and Science Post Matric Programme is to contribute to the capacity of young people in these regions and improve their chances of finding employment both at Implats operations and elsewhere. In essence Implats is making a contribution to the region as a whole.
The programme is operated by the Ukuqonda Institute, an NGO acting as a service provider to Impala. Because of the high cost of living in the town, it is a challenge for the institute to recruit suitable teachers who are willing to work in Rustenburg. Ukuqonda is required to pay teachers very well, as well as provide housing or other suitable accommodation. The main drawcard for the teachers is the challenging nature of the job coupled with the satisfaction of watching students progress on the programme.