South African nonprofit organisation PROTEC opened two new education centres in Gauteng, on June 6 in Ebony Park, Midrand, and on October 3 at the Soweto Empowerment Zone, with plans to open another in Atteridgeville, in Pretoria, next year.
The aim is to help learners in grades 10 to 12 to focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).
“The PROTEC education programme helps by providing additional lessons and support on Saturdays and classes during the holidays. This allows for an additional focus on industry, career guidance and exposure to work, as well as computer literacy, and holistic support for the learners,” says PROTEC CEO Balan Moodley.
According to the organisation, the programme relies on funding from private-sector companies, such as energy consultants GE South Africa (SA), telecommunications and information communications technology specialist Altron and technology information provider Sabinet, to support the growth and development of technologically skilled learners from disadvantaged communities.
The centre in Midrand will be funded by GE SA, the one in Soweto by Altron, and the one in Atteridgeville by Sabinet.
Moodley says the Stem programme follows the curriculum assessment policy statements (Caps) set out by the Department of Education (DoE).
“Caps requires that all study material and work schedules follow a certain standard and timeline. Therefore, PROTEC’s model is directly aligned with the DoE’s work schedule . . . with all workbooks provided by PROTEC being Caps compliant.”
He explains that PROTEC not only provides learners with the opportunity to improve their matric results and performance but also takes them on site and corporate visits so that they can make informed career choices. PROTEC also helps students to apply for bursaries and financial aid, with financial contributors to the PROTEC education centres providing additional sponsorship opportunities.
Moodley points out that a recent initiative from PROTEC has been the establishment of the PROTEC Post School Programme (PSP), mentorship training that provides support for learners during their university education.
“Statistics show that about 60% of students at higher education institutions drop out during their first year of study. The transition between school and university education is difficult, particularly for disadvantaged students,” says PROTEC alumni Snothando Mzobe.
Mzobe is employed as an engineer at agroprocessing company Tongaat Hulett Group.
“It’s simply not enough to support students financially. For this reason, PROTEC has launched the PSP, which addresses the need for holistic support and mentorship. This will ensure that students don’t get lost in this important stage of their career journey,” he points out.
Moodley states that the programme is a powerful support system, as the senior students who use the PROTEC education centres can mentor new students and serve as role models.
“Every PROTEC centre has a mentorship programme because mentorship, formally or informally, is at the heart of the PROTEC model . . . Matriculants at each branch are encouraged to join the PSP to receive support and mentorship in the challenging first year of university . . . As they progress, they develop from being the recipients of the support to becoming mentors to the younger students,” Moodley points out.
Meanwhile, PROTEC has other centres in Gauteng as well as the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and KwaZulu-Natal, which are continually updated with the latest technology, providing students with computers and software sponsored by multinational technology company Microsoft Corporation.
“It is heartening to see how many PROTEC students give back to the programme and become inspirational role models . . . by volunteering, offering tutoring and assistance,” says Mzobe.