Monday, 10 October
Since the Covid-19 lockdown brought teaching at the Maths and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) in Kimberley to a temporary halt, the centre has reinvented itself and has created many new learning and career opportunities for its learners in the digital world.
Anne Maclean, managing director, says this non-profit organisation is now the only public Certiport Authorised Testing Centre in the Northern Cape that offers certifications in Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS); Microsoft Certified Educator and IC3 Digital Literacy.
“The only other centres offering these certifications are in Johannesburg and Cape Town.”
MSLA has produced the first-ever learner from a public school to earn a certification. Some 13 Gr. 9 to Gr. 12 learners have achieved MOS certifications in Word 2019 and one has attained Word 2019 Expert. Another has achieved an MOS certification in PowerPoint 2019 and more are preparing to write certifications in Word 2019, PowerPoint 2019 and Excel 2019.
Ismaeel Cader (15), a Gr. 9 learner of the William Pescod High School, has attained MOS certifications in Word 2019, PowerPoint 2019 and Excel 2019. He has automatically received the Microsoft Office Specialist: Associated certification and is most likely the youngest person in South Africa to have achieved this. He is preparing to write Word 2019 Expert soon, a qualification that few adults possess.
“MSLA was set up in October 2006 as a response to the challenges facing education in this area, especially mathematics and science. We offer classes in mathematics, science, digital literacy, coding, global citizenship and career guidance in the afternoons, Saturdays and during holidays for learners who want to progress in life. The learners are nominated by the schools based on their potential and sense of commitment and determination.
“Through sponsors’ funding the academy provides learners with excellent teachers, stationery, study guides, refreshments, and transport for those who need it. Financial support is given to Gr. 12 learners regarding university application fees,” Maclean says.
When the lockdown was enforced, sponsors gave permission to redirect the unused funds.
“We renovated the premises and restructured it as a digital access to bridge the digital divide that was highlighted by the pandemic. Digital literacy is a core fundamental competency for future career success and is a very important part of our offerings.”
Luis Guerra Grandal, an IT engineer from Cuba, has played a major role in leading the digital transformation at MSLA.
MSLA is registered as a Microsoft Education Institution. All learners and teachers have Microsoft 365 Education accounts. Besides the Microsoft digital literacy classes, the use of technology forms part of all aspects of learning and teaching at MSLA. Guerra Grandal, who is also teaching at MSLA, says the certification courses they offer are on par with the best schools and universities in South Africa.
Maclean is very proud.
“The majority of learners are from poor communities. There are wonderful success stories. MSLA’s broader focus is on supporting teachers and schools in using technology to transform education in making it relevant for our current world.”
Guerra Grandal says the department is “on board” with the MSLA proposal, but officials and teachers need to be trained first before they can train learners for these certifications. Five local schools have already shown an interest. Some teachers and learners have already achieved MOS certifications.
“The learners who achieved the Microsoft certifications at MSLA are proof that it can be done. We hope that by next year our proposal will become a reality,” he says.
They both hope that the public and private sectors will send staff to MSLA to be trained and Microsoft certified.
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