A training workshop was held at UKZN’s Data Science for Business computer laboratory for teachers involved in the second round of the eThekwini Municipal Maths and Science Olympiad (EMMSO).
The first round of the Olympiad took place at the KwaMashu Community Hall with teams comprising learners from 30 schools. The 15 top achiever school teams were then chosen for round 2.
EMMSO is run by the Organisation of Mathematics Education in Disadvantaged Schools (OMEDS) whose CEO, Mr Scelo Bhengu, approached the Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Delia North, to support the project.
Having previously met North in 2006 when she was the master trainer for the Stats SA Maths4Stats project, a teacher-training campaign, Bhengu said: ‘Prof North is very passionate about Statistics, hence I decided to partner with her in this programme. Without her I don’t think we would have got this far.’
Bhengu had been one of a team of 26 South African teachers that North led at the 7th International Conference on Teaching Statistics (ICOTS7) in Brazil in 2007. This followed North being on the team that defined the Statistics content of the School’s curriculum and her role as trainer of the team that returned from ICOTS7 where Bhengu says he developed his appreciation of data handling and probability concepts.
‘In the first round of the competition, learners are encouraged to get to know their schools better,’ said Bhengu. ‘This is done through surveys about their school and a presentation, while in the second round, learners are tasked with conducting a study on their communities and giving a presentation. In the third, and final, round learners are required to get information about their municipalities from the Library, StatsSA and other resources made available to them.’
The training session for teachers aimed to equip those from the schools which made it through the first round with tools they would need to tackle the second round. The teachers were shown how to access the relevant Stats SA website, download data for their community and also how to plot graphs on whatever topic they were interested in.
Said North at the opening workshop: ‘When Scelo told me about the project, I immediately saw the potential. It is a great platform to inform learners about data science and to advocate for further studies in STEM areas in general,’ she said.
Academics from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science supported the initiative by providing the teachers with relevant data training, which will be of great value to them, even beyond the competition.
‘It is such a pleasure to work with teachers like Scelo Bhengu, who is so motivated to make a difference to learners from schools in less affluent areas, but equally, it is extremely inspiring to work with staff from the Statistics sector of UKZN, where everyacademic in the Discipline volunteered when I asked for helpers,’ North said.
UKZN Statisticians, Ms Nombuso Zondo and Ms Danielle Roberts were the major drivers of the training session, thus giving an indication that the young staff are ready and able to be role models for the next generation of data analysts. Roberts said the event was a big success, with the teachers being very enthusiastic and engaged. ‘They learned a lot,’ she said, ‘not only in terms of accessing the data, but also about trying to think about how the data can be used to answer important questions about their communities.’
The teachers were also given a Microsoft Excel crash course to assist them with further summary and display of data.
Delegate, Ms Nokulunga Sibiya of Nhlanhlayethu Secondary School said she had gained knowledge that would assist her in the competition and got insight into what was happening in her ward, school and municipality. ‘The speakers were knowledgeable, and I was grateful for the opportunity to be here,’ she said.
Sponsors of the competition were UKZN, eThekwini Municipality, Coca-Cola and Casio.
Teachers expressed their delight with the UKZN branded gifts and laminated posters and pamphlets received by all 180 learners and the 30 teachers who took part in the first round, while those attending the workshop each got an 8-gig flash drive with data sets downloaded at the workshop.
Networking took place over light refreshments.
Words: Samantha Ngcongo
Photographs: Mzimasi Hloba