Christine's story and why it's important to NYC
Five years ago, when Christine Ngwenya was 14, her dream was to be a scientist. “My dream is to be a scientist because I am so curious about the world — I want to know everything,” she said at the time. But Christine lived in Diepsloot, a densely populated and poverty stricken suburb north of Johannesburg in South Africa. In 2013 she was in Grade 9 in a public school. Her class was big. She was one of 44 students who were averaging well under 20% for maths. Christine was one of the best performers — yet, her average was only 23%. Democracy brought the hope of economic transformation to South Africa. But instead of enabling shifts in economic classes, South Africa’s education system is an apartheid legacy that perpetuates economic divides. Only one in five learners who write grade 12, pass mathematics.
Fortunately, Christine's story has a happy ending. Thanks to a smart math education initiative, today she’s in her first year of a Bachelor of Science degree. She was lucky to be part of a math education programme run by OLICO Education. A handful of Christine’s 44 peers joined the maths programme. “All of the people who went to the maths lab are now in university,” she reports. “Most of those who didn’t go to the maths lab are now just staying at home. If I didn’t get into university I’d also be doing nothing,” she says.
OLICO Education is a nonprofit that is breaking the cycle of generational poverty by giving children the ability to create a new story.
You can read all about Christine's story on the World Economic Forum's website.
YOU CAN HELP OPEN OPPORTUNITIES
Christine's story has many parallels to low income children living in NYC. However, without a smart math intervention, they will never be the scientists, doctors, accountants, etc. that they are dreaming about today. That not only means shattered dreams, but a waste of human potential and a negative impact on the USA's economy.
Fortunately for children like Christine, in 2011 a group of academics and non-profit pragmatists started to work on teaching math in low income neighbourhoods in South Africa, a country with far more devastating poverty, broken families and violence than the USA. Under the umbrella of OLICO Education, a number of core math interventions have been developed that are theoretically sound, best practice and showing remarkable results. One of these programs is the creation of small supportive communities of 10 children together with a mentor, where the main focus is on math sense making, active engagement, participation and confidence building. The objective is to build foundational skills that will allow the child access to common core mathematical concepts that are required to understand the national curriculum.
We call this program, “Math Clubs” for elementary school children between the ages of 6 and 12.
Our plan is to use the OLICO Education's expertise, materials and experience to start a pilot project in Washington Heights, West Harlem and the Bronx aimed at children from low income households who are in Grades 1,2 and 3. Our initial objective is to set up a few Math clubs in 2018 as an initial pilot and to grow it from there. We want to help childern reach their dreams.
OLICO has an extensive network of math expertise that is involved in the design and development of the Math Clubs programme including (among others): Dr Lynn Bowie (OLICO and Wits University), Prof Mellony Graven (Rhodes University), Dr Debbie Stott (Rhodes University), Dr Nicky Roberts (University of Johannesburg), Prof Mike Askew (Wits University) and Ingrid Mostert (University of Johannesburg).
We have practical experience in running these clubs and a rigorous scientific approach that includes the ongoing refinement of the program according to context.
WHAT WE NEED
We have the materials, the expertise and the processes to conduct a pilot project in Manhattan. All we need now is a few dedicated volunteers and some initial funding to get the project off the ground.