University at Buffalo,The State University of New York + University of KwaZulu-Natal

In the South African state of KwaZulu-Natal, there is a dire shortage of teachers qualified to teach high-level high school mathematics, especially in rural areas. Most of the math teachers have only a secondary school teaching diploma and lack the content knowledge to teach math for grades 10 through 12. Of the 1,600 secondary schools in the state, 300 are unable to offer higher levels of math education due to a lack of qualified teachers.

In the fall of 2008, Higher Education for Development (HED), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), awarded $224,034 to the University at Buffalo (UB), The State University of New York for a three-year partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to develop a low-cost, flexible delivery pilot math teacher education program. The partnership’s goal is to strengthen the knowledge and pedagogical skills of black South African secondary school teachers to teach math in grades 10 through 12.

Less than a year into the initiative, the partners succeeded in developing three modules for a new Advanced Certificate of Education for Further Education and Training in Mathematics. Given the modest size of the award, the partners initially expected to train 30 teachers. That number would soon change.

In March 2009, two representatives from KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Education (KZN DOE) attended the first series of meetings between UB and UKZN in Durban and remained engaged with the partnership’s activities. HED staff learned during a site visit that KZN DOE contributed about $300,000 since August 2010 toward the partnership efforts – increasing the number of teachers to be trained from 30 to 400! As more modules are created the KZN DOE is expected to contribute up to $600,000 in total.  

The 400 teachers, in various stages of modules completion, have the potential to impact thousands of South African secondary students every year.

The generous KZN DOE funding was a result of a combination of factors coming together. UKZN Partnership Director Dr. Vimolan Mudaly said KZN DOE considered implementing a relatively large-scale mathematics teacher training program for some time, but for various reasons was unable to initiate it. Additionally, KZN DOE recognized the urgent response needed to address math education in South Africa, so when the partners realized that their budget would not be sufficient to cover the tuition and fees for the original 30 teachers, they asked the KZN DOE if it could assist financially. Due to the high-quality, partnership-developed math training modules and regular communiqués between KZN DOE and UKZN partners, KZN DOE agreed to help as long as the partners were willing to train a much larger cohort of teachers. The 400 teachers, in various stages of modules completion, have the potential to impact thousands of South African secondary students every year. The partners say it is likely the KZN DOE will continue to provide resources for future trainings, based on the success of the current education modules and positive feedback from KZN DOE.

HED Partnership in South Africa Leverages Government Funding to Train 400 Math Teachers

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