South African maths education is in a state of crisis, with performance outcomes that place South African learners at the bottom of international comparisons of mathematics competence. Since 2012, the USP's has been addressing the persistently poor maths performance in our partner schools with our after-school maths program open to any mathematics learner in Grade 10-12 in any of our five partner schools, free of charge. Learners consistently attending our math program attaining significantly higher math scores and pass rates than learners who elect not to attend. Our innovative WAO! program of online learning through cell phones has boosted maths performance since its founding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Science Enrichment has been at the heart of The Umkhumbane Schools’ Project programming since our founding. Our vision is to not only increase learners’ capacity to succeed in their science subjects, but also to provide them with opportunities for hands-on scientific exploration, STEM career exposure and guidance, and an increasing confidence in their capacity to succeed. One of our longest running science programs brings the Science4U Mobile Science van from the University of KwaZulu-Natal's College of Agriculture, Engineering, and Science to teach all of the physics practicals required by the national science curriculum in all of the Grade 10-12 science classrooms in our partner schools.
The Umkhumbane Schools Project recognizes the urgent challenges posed by climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, the South African energy crisis, and more — and how the burden of these overlapping challenges falls disproprortionately on lower income families. As such, we are committed to preparing our learners to be part of the environmental solution, professionally and personally, through programming, community engagement, and fostering environmental resilience at our partner schools. For example, we are currently partnering with the DUT Department of Horticulture on a teaching garden at Bonela Secondary.
Higher Education and Career Guidance
At The Umkhumbane Schools Project, we believe that learners in our schools are hindered by South Africa’s noticeable lack of effective career and academic guidance for high school learners. As of 2023, the number of USP learners from our higher education admissions program who have successfully enrolled in college or university study has risen from a handful to 190, at institutions such as the University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Cape Town, Wits University, University of Pretoria, University of Johannesburg, Rhodes University, the Durban University of Technology, and the Mangosuthu University of Technology.
Arts and Humanities
We are happy to sponsor and co-sponsor pursuits in the creative arts and humanities. For example, we recently commissioned a photographer to lead a group of our learners through a nature photograpy workshop series: harnessing photographic first principles to encourage conservation, natural appreciation, and emotional metaphor. The USP is also engaged in a pilot program to develop a love of reading in our high school learners, in partnership with the Durban University of Technology, the Rajen Reddy Foundation, and the IQRAA Trust.
The Umkhumbane Schools Project's social work program provides counseling, connection to social and medical services, and life-skills development programming. Our Girls Groups and Big Sister/Little Sister provides focused support on the well-being of girls in our schools. Through our partnership with the Jess Foord Foundation we are able to provide counseling to learners facing the trauma of rape and other sexual assault.