UP’s flagship high school learner-aimed JuniorTukkie programme goes virtual

Posted on June 27, 2022

Rather than see the COVID-19 pandemic entirely as a stumbling block, the team behind JuniorTukkie also saw it as an opportunity to support even more high school learners with their schoolwork and career choices. Through their free jTOnline e-learning platform, they are embracing the educational opportunities that the virtual world presents – one video at a time.

JuniorTukkie is the flagship project of the University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) Department of Enrolment and Student Administration (DESA). Since 2012 it has hosted regular events to empower prospective students to make wise study and career choices and to be better prepared for their exams.

jTOnline provides extensive free learning content in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Accounting, Life Sciences, Natural Sciences and English for Grade 8 to Grade 12 learners across South Africa.

Pre-COVID up to 300 matriculants visited UP’s Hatfield Campus each year to receive dedicated help with end-of-year exam preparation at events such as Winter School and Summer School. They learnt about improving study methods, problem-solving, and the best ways of answering exam papers in specific subjects.

But in reaction to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 and the lockdowns that restricted in-person events, the JuniorTukkie team had by July 2020 swiftly adapted and launched the JuniorTUkkie YouTube channel, and in 2021 the e-learning platform juniortukkie.online

Within its first six months the jTOnline platform and its associated YouTube channel had already attracted 100 000 views. It now provides extensive free learning content in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Accounting, Life Sciences, Natural Sciences and English for Grade 8 to Grade 12 learners across South Africa.

“We’ve already uploaded nearly 1 000 educational videos, all developed by skilled and experienced teaching professionals,” says Dr Petrus Lombard, Manager: JuniorTukkie and Undergraduate Recruitment. “Although challenging at times, it’s been nothing short of exciting and rewarding.”

Online exam preparation classes for Grade 12 learners

Because of uncertainties around COVID-19 restrictions, it was decided not to schedule an in-person Winter School. Instead, a free series of online Grade 12 Examination Preparation classes will be broadcast to registered users from Monday 27 June 2022 until the end of August 2022.

“It will allow us to potentially reach thousands of matriculants, rather than just a few hundred. The broadcasts are recorded and distributed via YouTube. All content is therefore available for future viewings,” Dr Lombard says. “As with other content on the platform, it can be accessed via juniortukkie.online.”

The final programme of broadcasts will be sent by email to all registered Grade 12 JuniorTukkie and jTOnline users, and distributed via the JT Facebook and Instagram platforms.

Life skills

jTOnline already provides high school learners with specially tailored subject matter and life skills training in areas such as study methods and time management, as well as guidance on subject choices, potential study programmes, and careers to consider. Potential UP students are also walked through the university’s application process, and Grade 12s already admitted for study at UP can access informative videos on what to expect once they become full-blown Tukkies.

Dr Lombard says these topics were regularly tackled by his staff and JuniorTukkie alumni during outreach projects such as the annual Grade 11 Empowerment Week, the Grade 12 Preparation Conference, by visiting schools, and enrichment programmes to support learners.

Subject-related support

Thanks to funding received from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Investec and UP, content provided on the juniortukkie.online platform channel has increased exponentially over the past year.

Once completed, there will be 20 hours’ worth of supportive content for Grade 11 to Grade 12s available in each of the following subjects: English, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Accountancy, and Life Sciences. Learning material on Mathematics, Natural Sciences and English content for Grades 8 and 9 learners is also available. “These are the major subjects that learners tend to struggle with most,” Dr Lombard says.

Access to the material is free, and all tutorials and content are aligned with the CAPS, NSC and IEB curriculums. The learning material is provided in the form of videos, PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, question papers, and memorandums.

“We have a team of 24 highly skilled teachers who are continuously developing new learning content. All information is carefully moderated before being uploaded,” Dr Lombard says. “Because data is not readily available to all learners, we are also uploading existing content onto memory sticks, to be distributed to schools. It will furnish teachers with information so that they can provide their learners with adequate career advice and input into their subjects.”

Student success

UP’s JuniorTukkie programmes and events have over the years contributed significantly to learner and student success. This has helped many young people handle the pressures of an academic and professional life.

“A combination of academic factors such as personal skills, academic skills, academic support, career counselling intervention, hard work, and perseverance to a large extent account for the successful transition of learners from high school to higher education,” Dr Lombard noted in a recent article in the African Journal of Career Development. “Similarly, non-academic factors such as interpersonal relationship skills, positive emotions, religion, and peer acceptance contributed to students’ successful transitions.”

His research shows that 76% of students who were part of the UP Grade 11 Empowerment initiative from 2009 to 2013 successfully passed their first year in one year. “That’s a great achievement, given that the national pass rate for first-year university students at one stage stood at 35%.”

 

To register as a jTOnline user and be notified as new learning content is uploaded, follow these steps:

1.   In your internet browser, type: juniortukkie.online

2.   Complete the jTOnline registration form and create a password.

3.   Choose the classrooms you want access to and click ‘Submit’.

4.   Go back to juniortukkie.online and click on ‘Login’

Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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