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Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Gilmour, John [1], Thorhaug, Anitra [2].

South African Secondary STEM COVID-19 distance learning in LEAP Schools by cellphone in economically-challenged areas.

The COVID-19 lockdown impact on the educational divide internationally, was recognised by UNESCO and the World Bank and anticipated to widen the inequality gap, consequently increasing the rate of dropout, creating a major educational crisis in Sub Saharan Africa. Prior to COVID-19, UNESCO found over 100 million African youth are excluded from the schools system with highest drop-out rates in secondary school phase. Access to the study of Sciences leading to skilled occupations and even employment opportunities has continued to exclude the majority of Black South African youth. The LEAP Science and Maths Secondary Schools in South Africa were founded in 2004 to address the social justice issues reflected in the education system inherited from colonial and apartheid times of evident extreme inequity. In response to the lockdown implemented in South Africa in March 2020, Leap Schools, solely serving grades 8-12 youth in impoverished communities, innovated a cost-effective cellphone learning system. LEAP-implemented teacher training ensured rapid transition to digital learning. Organizational commitment was made to use software support applications accessible by cell phones, the most affordable digital devices available, costing less than $120 per student for the phone and enough data. Home laptops or other devices are not available to LEAP students, all living in the lowest-quintile economic sector where families of 8 survive on less than $5, day-1, a reality for at least 80% of Africa’s children. Teachers’ established online cell phone social-emotional support and academic and skills development learning groups [in Sciences, Mathematics, languages, Social Sciences] for students to focus learning entirely through use of cellphones. LEAP provided phones and data where this was required. LEAP 2020 year-end tests showed very minor variations from non-COVID years 2019, 2018 final tests in all grades. IXL [Mathematics online learning platform] results showed superior test results during use of cellphones. Independent expert assessors commissioned by the National Department of Education, found LEAP students with cell-phones benefitted during COVID with no regression or indicators of lost learning compared to public schools. Cost-efficient cell-phone support reinforces the intrinsic motivation developed in students by LEAP, resulting in full return to school after COVID-19 lockdown compared with 10% public school dropout. The model ensures that social inequity in education continues to be addressed in times of crisis such as lockdowns. Potential exists to utilise this model in disaster situations in many nations for which the LEAP Teachers Institute is prepared to provide assistance.

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Related Links:

1 - LEAP Schools, Crawford, Cape Town, WC, 7760, South Africa
2 - Greater Caribbean Energy and ENvironment Foundation, 1359 Southwest 22nd Terrace, 1, FL, 33145, usa

COVID_19 STEM education
Distance learning by cellphone
LEAP Schools COVID-19
LEAP innovates distance learning on cellphones
STEM distance learning Cellphones
LEAP STEM learning South Africa.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: ED1, Education & Outreach I: Botany for Diverse Audiences & Under-Resourced Communities
Location: /
Date: Tuesday, July 20th, 2021
Time: 1:00 PM(EDT)
Number: ED1003
Abstract ID:75
Candidate for Awards:None

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