Inkanyezi Learner Placement Project

This project selects and places learners from poor functioning public schools into high functioning public schools. The project offers, inter alia, bursaries, extra academic support, mentoring and psycho-social support to the qualifying learners.

Name of Organisation / service provider: INKANYEZI Public Schools Managed by Wendy Heard in partnership with CASME (Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education)

Duration of Project: 2010 to 2016

Programme: Schools Programme      

Where is the Project based: KwaZulu-Natal


In terms of the Zenex Foundation’s strategy, this is a project in the Schools Programme that seeks to increase the number of Black (African, Coloured and Indian) learners who obtain Bachelor passes in the National Senior Certificate examination with quality passes in Mathematics, Science and English. The rationale for the project is that it will provide an opportunity for these learners to follow careers in the Mathematics and Science subject streams at university level. The principle underlying the Project is that of providing access to learners from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. The project is intended to be an intervention rather than a solution to the educational crisis in the country.

This project facilitates the entry and integration of learners with potential from disadvantaged backgrounds into selected high quality public schools that have the capacity to offer quality teaching and learning in Mathematics, Science and English. In addition, these schools have the resources and experience to support the academic experience with life skills and social skills.

While recommendations from evaluations of the Zenex Learner Programme show a five-year model is regarded as most beneficial given learner backlogs, it was agreed to restrict the project to three years, to allow the Foundation an opportunity to implement the lessons learnt to date. Therefore, the new three-year Inkanyezi Project from 2014 – 2016 supports 100 disadvantaged learners to enter schools in Grade 10 in 2014, to complete in 2016.

Details of the intervention

Learner selection

Learners with potential were selected in Grade 9 from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The selection process involved a dual process of selection by targeting learners within the school as well as initiating an outreach programme to recruit Project learners. The outreach required schools to invite applications from learners from wider catchment schools (not existing feeder schools) and especially from disadvantaged areas e.g. township, rural areas and informal settlements.

There were three key criteria for the recruitment of Project learners:

  • Race: The target group was African, Coloured and Indian learners.
  • Academic Selection: Learners write standardised assessments in Mathematics and English and a critical thinking test. Those recruited from township, rural areas and/or informal settlements must achieve 50% on the entrance test. A higher entry requirement is set for learners selected within the school. In-school learners must achieve 60% on the entrance tests.
  • Socio-economic circumstances: The means of the family is reviewed and the joint household income must be below R15 000 per month or R180 000 per annum. In addition, the number of dependents is also taken into account.

Special emphasis for selection was given to learners cared for by grandparents, single parents or in child-headed households or who are orphans.

Academic support

The Project (schools) offers quality tuition and academic support though extra classes and camps[1]. In particular, as of 2014, the academic support component was strengthened to provide more individualised targeted support to learners in the Project.

Originally, supporting learners through placement in a quality school was deemed sufficient. However, evaluations indicated that that learners were unable to cope because of their home and socio-economic background that do not foster learning, as well as the gaps in learning and teaching from their previous schools. This leads to learners entering project schools with learning gaps and low language ability to engage with subject content.

The evaluators recommended that the Inkanyezi Project reconsider the academic support component and provide a systematic academic intervention to address learning gaps. Lessons from the evaluations thus far show variable improvement in learner results. The evaluators have also advised that the support offered in extra tuition is inadequate as it does not address learners’ needs for individualised attention. Instead, in most cases the extra lessons are a repeat of the curriculum covered in the classroom. In particular, it was suggested that the Project train teachers to utilise differentiated teaching and learning strategies in working with learners.

A structured approach of mentoring, academic support and care was applied as follows:

  • Mentorship: Extensive support is provided through the mentorship component. This component comprises individual counselling and group mentorship. Thus the project offers two mentor sessions: one individual session per month for academic and psycho-social support and a second monthly group session to develop life and coping skills, study skills and leadership skills. The group sessions will have themed topics such as: time and stress management, social and behavioural issues e.g. HIV AIDS, substance abuse, etc.
  • Academic support: The International Benchmarking Tests were used to provide a diagnosis of learner academic support needs, identify backlogs and provide information on learner growth in performance and value added. The tests were conducted once learners had been accepted on the Project. There are ongoing diagnostic assessments based on the grade curriculum, which is developed through the Differentiated Support Project initiated by Zenex.
  • Extra Academic Support: Academic support camps dealing with remediation and revision have been introduced. The remediation camps develop foundational skills through a graded programme using the Differentiated Support materials and focus on exam preparation and revision. One camp takes place each year over the three years of Grade 10, 11 and 12.
  • Additional Tuition: Twenty-five; one-hour extra tuition sessions in Mathematics, Science and English (using the differentiated structured programme) focus on re-enforcing concepts identified in the diagnostic assessments and building critical skills.
  • Enrichment through promoting Mathematics, Science and English: Whilst the camps are key in this regard, the value added components include the promotion of Mathematics, Science and English. The aim is to add value by exposing learners to activities that promote excellence, remove the stigma and fear of Mathematics and Science and make these subjects fun. The Foundation supports the English Olympiad and the idea is to develop Mathematics and Science Clubs that could culminate in participation in Mathematics and Science Olympiads as well.

1. Learner Camps: The purpose of the camps is to provide additional academic support to allow for further remediation and for exam preparation and practice in Mathematics, Science and language. In addition, the camps bring all learners together for focused support on study and life skills, including additional feedback and motivation sessions on the tertiary access support.  They also allow learners to do physical activities that are fun and facilitate social interaction among learners from different schools. We have seen the benefits of learners building networking skills and gaining wider exposure through these camps.

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