Supports keep pupils studying through Covid and deliver exam success
Special educational supports funded by local wind farms have been credited for preventing young minds becoming a casualty of South Africa’s recent Covid-19 waves.
Two psychosocial programmes were rolled out with the help of Mainstream community teams in the Northern Cape during 2021, with one warding off a surge in drop-out rates and the other helping to deliver an improved pass rate for Matric students.
A partnership between Kangnas Wind Farm and the provincial Department of Education identified more than a dozen schools within the Nama Khoi Municipal area where attendance was likely to suffer as a result of the pandemic.
Pupils from foundation level Grade 3 right up to Grade 12 matriculation were provided with mentoring and motivational services, alongside coaching in study skills and cognitive performance techniques.
The nine-month scheme has also included home visits; career guidance, dignity packs of toiletries, and debriefing and counselling sessions for children and teenagers who were dealing with Covid traumas.
In all, more than 800 learners aged between eight and 18 received some form of support to keep them attending class and engaged in lessons.
Henry B Van Wyk, Principal at SA Van Wyk High School, explained the need for the programme after seeing how the pandemic had taken its toll on students' mental health and teacher morale.
He said: "Learners have been unmotivated in part because they are not in school every day, and we have had difficulty reaching parents regularly to discuss certain topics, including the academy and school fees.
"Our school serves an extremely poor community where many learners do not have a support network. I really appreciate this programme: it builds on our children's self-esteem and human dignity and can make a difference to their future."
Marlene Bailey, a teacher at another beneficiary school, Okiep High School, hailed the support teams’ "excellent results" in minimising Covid disruption to her pupils’ schooling.
She said: "It was incredible that during it all, the learners had the support of caring empathetic social staff who were there 24/7.
"We appreciate the support, and we are grateful that so many kids could be helped. Thanks to the sessions, our Matriculants were able to calmly sit their exams and effectively apply strategies taught."
Grade 12 learners were given the skills to address the emotional and mental wellbeing impacts of Covid and focus on improving their academic performance, which they did with a remarkable 36 percent increase in the Matric pass rate.
Secondary level students at St Anna Private, Concordia, Namakwaland and Nababeep high schools were also targeted for assistance, as were younger primary learners in the communities of Matjieskloof, Springbok, Okiep, Concordia, Carolusberg and Nababeep.
Rouchet Daniels, Mainstream’s Economic Development Manager for Kangnas Wind Farm, explained that the psychological, social, emotional and educational supports were funded as part of a wider programme focused on raising educational outcomes in the local area.
She said: "High levels of anxiety and academic pressure resulting from the Covid-19 health pandemic has resulted in poor school performance. In response, we decided to implement a programme that would support these learners. Their academic performance is dependent on their mental health, abilities and commitment."
In a separate scheme, Loeriesfontein and Khobab wind farms collaborated with the Department of Education in the Namakwa District and learning solutions specialists Neuro-Link to raise matric results at Loeriesfontein High School.
Grade 12 learners were given the skills to address the emotional and mental wellbeing impacts of Covid and focus on improving their academic performance, which they did with an remarkable 36 percent increase in the Matric pass rate.
School Principal, Zelda Vos, said: "Our Matric achieved outstanding academic results because of this programme, but it also helped them develop self-confidence and self-esteem. It is my pleasure to congratulate my class of 2021 on their extraordinary attitude towards their studies and the programme."
During the test and exam periods, Neuro-Link ran a 'Fuel Programme' that focused on learner nutrition, sleeping patterns and study methods – a scheme that supplemented existing wind farm funded supports at the school such as sponsorship of a maths teacher, Smart boards, pupil tracksuits and a workshop on further education opportunities.
Mushai Louw, Mainstream’s Economic Development Project Officer Intern for Loeriesfontein, explained: "With the help of Neuro-link, we explored the possibility of a psychosocial programme for Grade 12 learners because of the effects of the pandemic on the learners as well as the schooling system.
"With the support, learners were able to deal with the additional stress in their matric year, cope with catch-up programmes, and address the overall social impact of the pandemic at home."
- Kangnas Wind Farm, which entered commercial operations in November 2020, and Khobab and Loeriesfontein wind farms, which began powering the grid in December 2017, were developed and constructed by Mainstream for our Africa Joint Venture, Lekela Power. Each has a generating capacity of 140 MW, which when combined would meet the demand of around 395,000 average-sized households.