Syafunda Project

Professor Mayosi was very committed to improving education outcomes in rural and poor schools. It was his wish to improve the quality of mathematics teaching and find a solution to close the access gap to internet thus providing information rich education experience. Due to the problem of digital divide in South Africa, students from poor family backgrounds have limited or no access to online information relevant for their studies. As a result, students perform poorer than their urban counterparts who have access to the internet.  As a result, of this access gap to information technologies, innovative offline solutions are a solution . The other challenge is the high cost of data in South Africa which makes it unaffordable for schools to use internet for the needed education content that would improve learner knowledge and performance.  As a result of these challenges the Foundation sought to find a technology solution that will solve the social problem faced by education authorities in the country. Siyafunda was identified and approved as a partner toward ubiquitous information access using off-line technologies.

Syafunda is a learning and data management platform which provides access to digital content through mobile technology. Teaching practices are integrated on video, audio and e-books into the school system through a wireless digital library for high school learners, in alignment with the South African curriculum. Mathematics and Science are the focus subjects on the platform, as well as tutelage in entrepreneurship, Digital Skills, Financial Literacy and Health & Nutrition.  

Syafunda has partnered with the Bongani Mayosi Foundation, in order to provide a digital learning platform to schools, initially in the Western Cape, with a focus on historically disadvantaged schools. The chosen school to pilot this project is Masibambisane High School, located in Delft. Delft is a location on the outskirts of Cape Town and is notorious for its high crime rates and underperforming schools. Learners are susceptible to succumbing to gangs in the area if they have no clear direction of their future. This school was chosen so that the Foundation could have a great impact on the lives of the community, and to allow the members of the community to envision a better life for themselves. 

This project will not only assist the educators in improving the pass rate of its high school learners, but it will also connect learners to bursary opportunities through the platform that they might not have been aware of before. This is a pilot project which if successful will be considered for extension to other township and rural schools.

The UCT Libraries department was approached by Prof Nonhlanhla Khumalo, Professor Mayosi’s wife, to consider how best Professor Mayosi’s awards and accolades may be showcased in a renovated and updated Health Sciences Library (HSL) . After careful consideration and several consultations, it was decided that the most befitting and meaningful way of acknowledging his achievements and principles is to reimagine, repurpose and refurbish identified spaces at UCT for enhanced research collaboration and academic excellence. Hence the idea of the Professor Bongani Mayosi legacy project was born.

The HSL, located within the Health Sciences Faculty, actively provides research support, nurtures academic excellence through embedding in the curriculum, and fosters student learning and engagement in a safe and accessible, albeit dated, library space. UCT Libraries commenced the refurbishment of the HSL in 2018, with the opening of a new UCT funded 60-seater training facility, which transitions into an after-hours study space named iMpilo Junction. This was in response to the demand by students for 24/7 access to connectivity and study spaces. As the Dean of the Faculty at the time, Professor Mayosi approved of this new space as it resonated with his passion for transformed and accessible learning spaces for a changing student population. This project has provided the impetus for future institutional planning. 

We believe this legacy project, which will introduce dynamic and contemporary design and aesthetic elements within an invigorated library space, will have a long-term impact on the aspirations and success of African health sciences students, academics and researchers thereby giving expression and keeping alive Professor Mayosi’s vision and principles. Further, this initiative is particular befitting since the UCT has approved the renaming of this library as the Bongani Mayosi Health Sciences Library.

Syafunda Project Objectives

In South Africa, of the 222,034 learners who wrote mathematics, only 54% passed the subject at the 30% level (source DBE). Only 4415 or 2% of those who wrote mathematics passed with distinction. A worrying trend is also the fact that the learners who are choosing mathematics at high school are declining. The 222,034 who wrote mathematics in 2019 is a decline from 270,516 (or 18%) learners who wrote mathematics in 2018 and the trend has been continuing over the last few years. This means that there are fewer students who qualify to enter into the STEM degrees. The poor performance can be attributed to a number of things such as a shortage of teachers, more learners choosing mathematics literacy, not enough textbooks, overcrowding of classes and a lack of support structures in rural and township schools. 

The objective of the Syafunda Project is to provide a digital support base for learners in high school for additional learning and other life-skills based training. The platform also provides free electronic textbooks in Maths and Science, as well as teacher support.

The objective of the Syafunda Project is to provide a digital support base for learners in high school for additional learning and other life-skills based training. The platform also provides free electronic. textbooks in Maths and Science, as well as teacher support.