Cubans hired to aid maths, science pupils: City Press

They’ve trained our doctors and fixed our military vehicles, and now they are coming to train our teachers.

Cuban education specialists have been enlisted by the Eastern Cape education department to help turn the province’s disastrous maths and science results around.

The Eastern Cape was again the worst performing province in the country as far as matric results are concerned, and the department is desperate for help.

The four Cuban specialists were welcomed by senior management at the department’s provincial headquarters in Zwelitsha, outside King William’s Town, on Tuesday.

 Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said: “The Cubans, who are known across the world for their quality education, especially in maths, science and medicine, will form part of a team of specialists who will spearhead the training of teachers at the department’s Maths and Science Academy at the JJ Serfontein Centre in Queenstown.”

Last year, 67 648 pupils in the province wrote exams on all subjects and, of these, 43 981 (65%) passed.

The province recorded a 5.7% improvement in the pass rate compared with 2016, but was still in last place, though it was the second most improved province after KwaZulu-Natal.

Eastern Cape Education MEC Mandla Makupula has come under fire for the low pass rate in maths and science, and is hoping that the introduction of the four Cubans will turn the fortunes of pupils in the Eastern Cape around.

When announcing the Grade 12 results for last year, Makupula said that there had been a 4.8% improvement in his pupils’ maths performance – 37.5% of them passed maths in 2016, and 42.3% passed last year.

In physical science, he said, there was a 7.7% improvement from 49.6% in 2016 to 57.3% last year.

“Mathematics and science deserves renewed attention in 2018.

“The pass rate improved commendably in 2017, and pupil intake has shown unparalleled growth over the past three years,” said Makupula.

On Thursday, Makupula told City Press that the Cubans would be officially welcomed by Premier Phumulo Masualle on Tuesday, when a clear programme of action in terms of their tasks would be finalised.

“In terms of details, they are still busy in the department with developing a programme. Everything else will be clearer on Tuesday, when the premier outlines the plans,” he said.

“The premier will officiate a programme that will give guidelines on what the Cuban specialists will be doing in the department to improve our results generally, but with a particular focus on maths and science.”

Provincial education department head Themba Kojana was also optimistic about the involvement of the Cuban advisers.

“The Cuban government has agreed to give us four of their specialists in maths, science and technology so that we can improve and maybe become a leading province in these subjects in future,” he said.

“We are thinking globally, though we are acting locally. The experts will be based in some of the institutes so that they will be able to drive the changes that we want to make,” Kojana said.

Jane Cowley, the DA’s spokesperson on education in the Eastern Cape, said any intervention that would lead to improvements in pupils’ skills and marks, especially in the critical areas of maths and science, would be welcomed.

But she had reservations.

“I hope this not another situation where we are pouring money into a bottomless pit and do not see results.

“We are employing teachers and have a whole directorate in the department of education to develop qualified teachers, but seemingly that is not happening,” she said.

“We should be receiving qualified graduates who can walk into a classroom and have a positive effect on our pupils.

“But we are still sitting with a backlog of teachers who are poorly qualified or underqualified, and we are spending millions on training and trying to develop them.” — Lubabalo Ngcukana, City Press