College of Education

Community engagement

Educational research focusing on schools

Currently there are 26 Community Engagement (research) projects taking place across CEDU. The first grouping is those projects which are related to school management, governance and leadership, the next group are the projects related to gateway subjects and teacher development. These will feed into the development of the Teacher Centres, another CEDU project jointly embarked on with the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The third cluster of projects is related to Inclusive Education for which a new Centre of Excellence is going to be established at Unisa. The fourth group are those projects which are related to Early Childhood Development.

In the centre of the four groups or quadrants lies the 500 schools project which covers all these aspects. By means of the 500 Schools project much research information is being gathered, the outcomes of which will feed back into developing better practices at the schools and in how we train teachers, also at the teacher centres. The research is done together with the teachers who co-construct the knowledge about their situation and together they find ways of improving teaching and learning.

More information on some of these projects:

  • The 500 Schools research project investigates the underlying causes of under-performance in grades three and six with a view to developing an intervention approach
  • The Dynamics of Violence in Schools Project, has been embarked on jointly by the United Kingdom, Brazil, Pakistan and South Africa. The aim of the project is to facilitate international comparison of school violence through the generation of school-based indicators of violence and of security measures
  • The Vhembe Schools Project focuses on increasing learner performance in National Senior Certificate Examinations
  • The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Outreach Intervention is aimed at developing an understanding of the environment surrounding African, coloured and Indian students and investigates what the root causes are for the low success rate in BEd Foundation Phase and PGCE Foundation Phase courses
  • The Growing ECD Teachers in Rural Areas project is aimed at attracting and recruiting 100 young black females to register for a four-year Bachelor of Education degree in Foundation Education. The recruitment process will target learners in rural schools that have a good Grade 12 results
  • Ilima Lemfundo seeks to improve the teaching of indigenous languages in poorly performing schools
  • The Science Outreach in KwaZulu-Natal project aims to empower science teachers in rural areas through face-to-face contact sessions
  • An investigation into the teaching of science and mathematics to students in schools for the blind intends to evolve mathematics and science education for visually impaired learners
  • The Analyses of Mathematics Teacher Professional Development Programmes cross-continental collaborative study will analyse teacher professional development programmes with a view to improving the quality of these
  • A community project focused on the training of facilitators for persons living with hearing loss, which is aimed at developing a short learning programme in cooperation with the National Institute for the Deaf.

"Lesson study" methods from Japan used to teach mathematics in Mamelodi

 Material design and making  Space shapes enough for each child  Learners using the materials in the classroom  Teachers taking notes while observing a lesson  Interacting with the learners during a live lesson


Ms Ronel Paulsen launched the first round of the project on 23 July 2009 in eight primary schools with the blessing and support of the Gauteng Department of Basic Education. Lesson study is a Japanese method used for teacher development. It formed part of research by Ms Paulsen on how the Asian Pacific countries excel with their mathematics training, part of which included the studying of classroom practises in Japan.

The project schools were selected in collaboration the Gauteng Department of Education and a year later about twenty-five teachers from now twelve schools became involved in the project. The teachers found the “lesson study” approach new and useful to approach teaching mathematics. Teachers became more confident because of the cooperative process in the planning of lessons. They became more aware of their own classroom practices while observing a lesson conducted by one of the group. Ms Paulsen remarked: “There seemed to be a shift from the focus on the teaching to the learning, which lies at the heart of lesson study.”

Broad objectives

The objective was to develop teachers’ professionalism in mathematics teaching through involvement in Lesson Study. The focus of this methodology is to study what students learn. Teachers plan a lesson collaboratively and teach that lesson to learners while the other teachers observe the lesson. Teachers then reflect on the lesson and on the learning that took place in the classroom. The focus is not only on “what” learners learn, but also on the “how” they learn it.  The Lesson Study process was adapted for the South African context. Teachers needed support in content knowledge, and the planning of lessons needed attention as well.

Target audience

Primary school teachers and learners involved with learning mathematics in the Mamelodi area.

Interventions to achieve objectives

In practice the SA project is different because the local teachers had to first overcome barriers of insufficient content knowledge and basic concepts required to teach mathematics in primary schools.

Stakeholders involved:

  • Gauteng Department of Basic Education
  • Unisa – College of Education
  • Twenty-five teachers from twelve Mamelodi Schools.

Lesson study planning and preparation


Department of Educational Studies

The following people are involved in a number of various Community Engagement projects in the Department of Educational Studies:

  1. Niemen MM, Van den Berg G and Pitsoe VJ The colleagues tend to establish a culture of reading amongst grade 8 and 9 learners. The basic reading skills are already mastered by the learners and currently learners have to read books and complete report forms on the books read. Furthermore, the colleagues established a chess team and provide chess coaching. Learners (about 50) have been introduced to chess playing and the basic skills are already mastered. The team visit Irene Middle School on Thursday afternoons.
  2. Lessing AC and De Witt MW (co-worker from Dept Teacher Training) The team take care of orphans at Mpyesi Primary School, Mandlakazi Village (Letsitele) and support teachers with regard to classroom management and the teaching of reading as well as the establishment of a food garden. They tend to visit the school twice per year to encourage the orphans and teachers and to determine specific needs. In January a workshop (action research) was also presented at Ephrath Mission Christian Academy Primary School and Happy Faces Pre-School, Deerpark Tzaneen to determine the challenges of teaching reading.; A great need was identified and a follow-up workshop on Reading and Learning disabilities was presented in February at Unicorn Primary School, Tzaneen to support these teachers. A similar workshop on reading and learning disabilities was done at Lenye-nye (near Letsitele). A great need is identified for support to learners with learning difficulties.
  3. Van Niekerk, MP and Van Niekerk, LJ (co-worker from Dept Teacher Training) Professors Van Niekerk visited the NanHua Buddist Tempel in Bronkhorstspruit to assist them with the accreditation of Outreach learning programmes. They are planning a follow-up of the activity.
  4. Van Rooy MP Prof van Rooy is nominated to serve on the South African Police Services Guardian Committee for Education, Training and Development and will attend workshops as scheduled by the SAPS
  5. Manyike TV Dr Manyike visited three rural primary schools (Letsitele) to collect data on their reading and writing proficiency skills with the aim to support these learners. The first set of data has been collected and analysed.


Professional Learning in School Management: Mpumalanga Project


In 2010, an Anglo American sponsored School Management Project was presented in the Nkangala region, approximately 100km east of Pretoria, for 30 education managers. The Project Leader was Prof. EJ van Niekerk, and was presented through the Centre for Community Training and Development.
Dr V Pitsoe, a mentee of Prof. EJ van Niekerk at the time, also played a prominent role and built up valuable contacts with Department of Education officials. As a closure to the project a seminar for the other education managers of the 30 schools taking part in the project was organised under the leadership of Dr Pitsoe, Prof van Niekerk and two senior officials from the Mpumalanga Department of Education, Mrs. M Thosago and Mr. H Tshehla. The seminar was a huge success and 130 participants attended it.

Primary objective

  • To present education managers with professional learning seminars through the PLSM Project, starting in the Nkangala District of the Mpumalanga province and expanding it to other areas. 
  • To provide the University of South Africa with appropriate data to assist its College of Education to develop Certificate Programmes and Short Courses to match the Mpumalanga province context

Target audience

  • Education managers in secondary schools within the targeted areas, starting from Pretoria to Groblersdal.

Interventions to achieve objectives

  • Seminars for education managers

Stakeholders involved

  • UNISA’s College of Education staff members
    • Dr VJ Pitsoe
    • Prof EJ van Niekerk
    • Dr M Lekhetho
    • Dr MM Dichaba
    • Dr R Machaisa
  • Mpumalanga Department of Education officials:    
    • Mr Mokone, (Senior Education Specialist of Teacher Development and School Governance)
    • Mr H Tshehla (Chief Education Specialist)
    • Mr MS Magwasa (Chief Education Specialist of Teacher Development and School Governance)
    • Mr JJ Mabena (District Director)

Learn not to Burn


Every year and throughout the world we hear of people being burnt to death in their homes. Many people in South Africa lose their lives as a result of fires, especially in informal settlements, where poverty is rife. Most of these informal settlements are without electricity or adequate sources of heating, and residents are forced to seek alternatives, especially during winter. These usually take the form of open fires for cooking and keeping warm. Precautionary measures when working with fire make a significant contribution to curbing the number of deaths resulting from open source fires.

Researchers at Unisa’s College of Education therefore decided to introduce fire safety education into schools, and the Learn not to Burn (LNTB) project was initiated in 2010.

During 2010, the project was piloted under the leadership of Prof Norma Nel, a lecturer at Unisa. The second phase of the project, in which Dr Tinswalo Manyike was involved, began on 19 January 2011, and was concluded on 20 September 2011. The outcomes of the project was presented at the Ireland International Conference on Education (Oct 2011), Unisa conferences (2010 and 2011) and Unicef Early Childhood conference in Nov 2011.

Objectives of the LNTB project:

  • To train Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers and practitioners on precautionary measures for fire, the content of the course will be integrated into the Pre-Grade R curriculum for Gauteng and eventually, nationally
  • To enable teachers to differentiate the curriculum to meet the respective needs of their learners who e.g. are Severely Mentally Handicapped (SMH) and to ensure access to the mainstream curriculum

Target audience:

  • ECD phase age group (0-6 years)
  • Infants and toddlers in rural communities and informal settlements, including children with special needs
  • Families, pre-school and early childhood teachers/practitioners

Interventions to achieve objectives:

  • Development of a manual that contains fire injury prevention messages to increase awareness
  • Ten workshops held to empower teachers to differentiate the curriculum and how they can use it in their respective schools
  • Development of a differentiated childhood burn injury prevention curriculum for pre-schools
  • Introducing successful interventions to prevent burn injuries, such as smoke detector promotion programmes, tap water temperature reduction, parent and child education
  • Teachers meet twice a month at Gateway School in Randburg, to discuss the challenges faced in implementing the LNTB differentiated curriculum

Stakeholders involved:

  • Unisa, College of Education
  • City of Johannesburg Emergency Services
  • Inclusion Unit GDE Head Office
  • Inclusion Unit District Office D12
  • The Gateway School (SMH)
  • Sizwile School (Deaf)
  • St Vincent’s (Deaf)
  • Albert Sisulu (Special School)
  • Pumla (Special School)
  • two Sunshine Centres
  • Unica (Autism),
  • Prinsenhof (Blind)
  • Discovery Full Service School

Seven schools were identified and participated in the project. At least thirty teachers from various schools around Gauteng were involved in the project.

Key team members:

  • Gauteng Department of Education (Early Childhood Development Institute) – Mrs. S de Beer
  • Emergency Management Services – Mr. R Eksteen and Mr. J Frank
  • The Gateway School – Maria Kempen (Principal),  Anne Ruscheinski (Deputy Principal) and staff
  • Unisa – Prof NM Nel, Prof G Kamper and Dr Tinswalo Manyike

Last modified: 2019/01/28