For R570 per child per month, the centre offers access to Via Afrika Tabtor Maths, a tablet-based personalised maths-learning programme aligned to the CAPs curriculum for grades R to 6.

The Centre for Development and Enterprise estimates that there are 250 000 learners, many of them from disadvantaged communities, enrolled at low-fee private schools, each paying less than R12 000 a year. And the number of learners grows every year as entrepreneurs get in on what the CDE says is a financially viable way for private individuals to address the urgent need for good quality basic education in South Africa.

This same need has for years buoyed the market for private tutors. According to a recent Sunday Times report, some private tutors charge as much as R3 000 per hour to provide learners with extra lessons in maths and science, which are problem subjects for pupils at many schools.

At these prices, private tuition has remained out of reach for all but the children of the most well-heeled.

That might all be about to change, if education publisher Via Afrika has anything to say about it. The company has recently launched a Via Afrika Tabtor Maths Centre at the Cobble Walk Shopping Centre in Durbanville, Cape Town; the first of its kind in South Africa.

“The Via Afrika Tabtor Maths programme is already available to any learner with a tablet,” says Micheal Goodman, Content Manager at Via Afrika. “But not all learners with a need for extra maths lessons have access to a tablet. The centre caters to these learners, giving them the opportunity to be paired with an experienced Via Afrika tutor who uses Via Afrika Tabtor Maths’ Active Replay Technology to follow the steps each child takes to solving maths problems – just like a teacher standing over a child watching them learn.”

Goodman says this information, as well as the data gathered from the Diagnostic Assessments, allows the tutor to give specific feedback and to further assign one of the over 7,500 worksheets to help the learner improve. There is also an expert maths teacheron hand at the centre to guide learners when they need help.

“Parents also receive weekly reports that allow them to monitor progress,” says Goodman. “In addition to the worksheets, there are also tests at certain milestones that will confirm that the learner does in fact understand the concept in question.”

Via Afrika plans to open a network of Via Afrika Tabtor Maths centres around the country, and is exploring giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to buy into an educational franchise, potentially expanding the contribution of the private sector to improving education outcomes.

This article was first published in the Entrepreneur magazine on 27 June 2016

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