Rhodes University's Mathematics Winter School programme empowers local learners

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Around 100 local learners took part in the Winter School, run by the Rhodes University Department of Statistics
Around 100 local learners took part in the Winter School, run by the Rhodes University Department of Statistics

By Bukamuso Sebata

Rhodes University, nestled in the heart of Makhanda, is renowned for its commitment to academic excellence. Recently, Dean of Science Professor Tony Booth emphasised the town's ability to nurture exceptional minds, urging grade 12 learners from six no-fee paying schools in Makhanda to take advantage of the University's resources.

In response to his call, Rhodes University's Department of Statistics has taken a proactive step in supporting Mathematics education within the public schooling system through its Winter School programme.

The Winter School programme, now in its second year, focuses on addressing the needs in the public education system. It aims to tackle topics in Statistics, Probability, and Financial Mathematics, which are often concepts learners struggle with. By identifying these areas of difficulty, the programme aims to equip learners with a solid foundation in these subjects and give them a better chance of success in their final exams.

Rhodes University lecturers Kate Koch, Amy Langston, and Professor Lizanne Raubenheimer, along with the assistance of second and third-year students, Honours students, and Masters students from the Department of Statistics, form a passionate team dedicated to the success of the Winter School programme. Their tireless efforts ensure learners receive personalised attention and guidance throughout. Stanley Mumamato Mbira, a final-year Masters in Statistics student involved in the programme, highlighted the importance of conversation and understanding, stating, "We try to converse with them and understand what the challenges are."

The impact of the Winter School programme is evident in the feedback from participating learners. Sesona Yantolo from T.E.M Mrwetyana Secondary School expressed her excitement, saying, "I learned a lot about things I didn't know, and next year I am thinking of doing Business Management."

The programme not only covers challenging topics within the grade 12 Mathematics syllabus but also ignites a passion for learning and introduces learners to potential career paths. Sesona, for example, aspires to pursue business management and become an entrepreneur.

With approximately 100 learners participating this year, the Winter School programme has effectively addressed some of the educational needs in Makhanda. Learner feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with requests for the programme to be held every term and to include additional subjects. Many learners have already expressed their desire to study at Rhodes University, demonstrating the programme's potential to attract and nurture local talent.

The positive impact of the Winter School programme adds value to the VC’s Education Initiative which has worked with all education stakeholders in Makhanda to
revitalise public education in the city over the past eight years. The support of the Rhodes University Community Engagement office has been instrumental in making the programme successful, emphasising the importance of collaboration and community involvement.

Rhodes University's grade 12 Mathematics Winter School programme has emerged as a beacon of hope for learners in Makhanda, empowering them with knowledge and instilling a love for learning. With continued support and collaboration, Rhodes University can strengthen its commitment to addressing the educational disparities in Makhanda and unlock the full potential of the town's big brains.