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Cultivating talent to give back

- By Refilwe Mabula

Research helps learners become socially responsible leaders in their communities

As the University is positioning itself as a leading research institution, the Wits Targeting Talent Programme (TTP) is promoting this vision through imparting research knowledge to learners from mid-high school.

Through the TTP learners participate in a three year enrichment programme and follow a curriculum that increases their readiness to access higher education opportunities. In this curriculum, research is one of the many focus areas.

During the annual winter break programme for TTP learners at Wits in July, research educator for the programme, Thabang Oliphant, educated Grade 10 learners on the various research techniques, both qualitative and quantitative.

Teaching research to learners from mid-high school is pivotal to prepare them for “when they come to varsity, they are not hearing about the word research for the first time and when they have to do it, they are not doing it for the first time,” said Oliphant.

To give back to their communities at the end of their three year participation in the TTP programme, the learners will apply the knowledge they gained from these research sessions to their community research projects.

This year’s Grade 12 learners presented their community research projects on 11 July 2015, and the top six programmes were from Capricorn High School; Dendron Secondary School; Glen Cowie Secondary School; Mbiliwi Secondary School; Phahama Secondary School; and Reitumetse Secondary School. 

Giving Back 

The community research projects are an opportunity for learners to give back to their communities, and are central to the TPP programme’s aim of helping learners to grow into socially responsible leaders.

Expressing gratitude, learners from Glen Cowie Secondary school praised TTP for “giving us a chance, and now we would like to give back to others as well”.

For their research project, these learners studied the Bosele School for the Blind and Deaf for their community. Their findings led them to initiate a “Collect-a-toy” campaign that resulted in an increase of more than 20% in this school’s academic results as learners were more motivated to participate in classes.

A refurbished computer lab with new computers was what came out of the Mbilwi Secondary School research project after the findings of their project indicated a dire need for such a lab.

Interviews and surveys were conducted by learners from Phahama Secondary School and they identified a need for access to information. Through fundraising and support from various parties, the learners were able to update the library with relevant and sufficient resources.

The learners from Dendron Secondary School say “talent was lost” when they lost a former learner in an accident. They used their project as an opportunity to combat the high accidents rates in their community.

“Dendron has a lot of traffic, but there are no traffic lights,” says one learner. Through a series of meetings with community members and the Dendron municipality, the learners were able to fund and build a pedestrian sidewalk to reduce accidents.