Maths project will sharpen young minds

THE launch of an ambitious high schools maths, science and commerce improvement project in Soweto at the weekend has been likened to sharpening an axe to easily cut a tree, writes Victor Mecoamere.

This analogy was used by SABC news head Phil Molefe, who was quoting mid-19th century US president Abraham Lincoln at the launch of the Soweto Development Committee-led Maths, Science and Commerce Learning Centres Project at the Fons Luminus Secondary School in Diepkloof, Soweto, on Friday.

Lincoln said: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe."

Molefe said: As a country, we have been trying to cut down the tree with a blunt axe, and it has not served us well."

Molefe, whose corporation - together with Sowetan - is the nation-building project's media and publicity sponsor, said: "I am glad to see (the establishment of) initiatives such as the Maths, Science and Commerce Learning Centres (that are) trying to sharpen our educational axe, because this is where we should start."

While this bold learning and teaching revival project of the City of Johannesburg's Soweto development committee was not going to change the world overnight, Molefe said it was a step in the right direction, towards a more competitive South Africa. Other leaders who lauded the project included former student Jack Ledwaba, local councillor Dan Padi, and June 16 Foundation member Stanley Mongoegape.

Leading the committee - which is also cooperating on the project with the Gauteng departments of education, basic education and science and technology, and the Adopt a Kid or School Programme Public Trust - is local councillor Vusi Sithole. Academic Bheki Shongwe is the project's advisory committee manager. Students from the universities of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg, as well as teachers from public and independent schools have thrown their weight behind the Maths, Science and Commerce Learning Centres Project.

Shongwe also introduced several business people, companies and organisations invited to back the project, which will be piloted at Fons Luminus, a poorly performing school. Thje project will serve as a centre of excellence in maths, science and commercial learning and teaching.

"The project will change economic and social conditions in Soweto by offering pupils in grades 7, 10 and 12 free tutoring in maths, physical science and accounting," Shongwe said.