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Learn Maths in isiXhosa!

The entire school maths syllabus is now available on the internet in isiXhosa and all the lessons and teachers modules are available for free.

This ground-breaking translation is the brainchild of two graduates from the University of Cape Town, Adrian Cox and Pratik Pokharel. The two formed a non-profit organisation called ClickMaths in 2012 in their undergraduate year with the belief that the best way to improve South Africa’s struggling mathematics education system is through the use of freely-available, open-source technology.

The two successfully tested the concept and then with the help of concerned private backers escalated the project using a group of 20 isiXhosa-speaking students studying high-level mathematics to translate the online video lessons from English so that primary and secondary learners can learn mathematics in their home language.

Cox and Pokharel believe that the future of education involves a system where teachers spend less time on administrative tasks, such as preparing lessons and marking, and more time on the truly important aspects of learning. They also believe maths competency will improve dramatically if learned in a mother tongue as well as English.

The translations are based on content from Khan Academy, a world-class, freely available platform that allows students to customise their own learning experience.

ClickMaths isiXhosa incorporates Khan Academy video lessons, interactive assessments and advanced analytics and is ideal for learners in and outside of the classroom to study at their own pace. The valuable teacher tool component allows teachers to monitor each student’s progress and adapts the learning experience to each individual.

Teachers can thus help learners see their progress and goals, create personalized recommendations about what to learn next and motivates them to master the skills they seek.

ClickMaths director and former Project Manager, Monique Baars, says the translations really have changed the lives of many of the students who worked on the project. It took almost 9 months to complete the 950 videos.

The group initially started with three translators and then increased to 20.

“We were very specific about the kind of translator we needed. Someone who could speak isiXhosa, had a good understanding of English and was involved in University level maths.

We were also conscious of the fact that this would be a part time job so we needed students who were driven, ambitious and passionate about maths. Finding the candidates was the easy part as almost all Xhosa speaking students could empathise with the language barrier issue and wanted to become involved to help their own communities and families.

Our interview and selection process was very stringent, but we found the desired number of translators easily.”

Baars says the beauty of the project is that the translations can be done anywhere at any time and many students actually worked at night and during the weekend to complete the work.

All translations were then checked and put through a quality control check point with an experienced linguistic expert to check for pace, tone, language and accuracy.

A Cape-based organisation, Numeric, has matched the South African school syllabus with Khan Academy lessons.

According to Dave Marsh, a publisher who has backed the project, the next challenge is overcoming shortages in the availability of bandwidth for some schools in the more remote areas.

He says with technology evolving all the time however students can access Khan Academy tutorials on an inexpensive survey like the Rasberry Pi for example. This is a wallet-sized server designed in Britain for education and is highly affordable costing less than R800.

It holds the entire Khan Academy maths syllabus in both English and isiXhosa and can link to over 30 students in a class via Wi-Fi so that they do not each need broadband.

Marsh confirmed that the long term vision of the project was to translate the syllabus into all the official languages. Clickmaths has already started on phase 2 of the project using mathematics undergraduates at the University of the Witwatersrand to translate the lessons into isiZulu.

Teachers and pupils who want to take advantage of this breakthrough project should go to the site on http://www.learnmathsinisixhosa.co.za/ 

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