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WSU partners with new Nelson Mandela school

20 January 2014, 09:52


The tuition-free Nelson Mandela School will be officially handed over to the public on Friday, 17 January by President Jacob Zuma at Mvezo, in the Transkei, the home of South Africa’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela.

This follows the signing of a twinning Memorandum Of Understanding between Walter Sisulu University and Siemens Stiftung (Siemens Foundation) in August, 2013 that will see WSU fostering “science competency centres”  worth R150 million.

“This is a great breakthrough,” said WSU’s Dr Prince Jaca, Director of the School of Mathematics, Science and Technology.

“This initiative came from Siemens because they have confidence in WSU. They could have picked any university in the Eastern Cape, but they chose us,” he concluded.

The project came about in 2010 when Peter Loscher, the global CEO of Siemens, visited former president Nelson Mandela during their 150 years of business celebration. He was then asked by Mandela why there wasn’t a high school built in his home village in Mvezo. That’s when Siemens offered the R150 million for the project of science competence centres.

Apple-powered light bulbs and solar power charged cell phones are some of the basic experiments to be conducted at the school.

In one of the most innovative concepts in science, Siemens and Experimento, a company that designs experiments with household products, is using ordinary household goods like washing powder and tartaric acid to demonstrate experiments that would usually require highly-equipped labs which are a scant resource in the Eastern Cape. This will allow WSU teachers to use this knowledge to conduct safe experiments in rural areas using these affordable household products.

With the assistance of the Department of Education, teachers from 24 schools in the Eastern Cape were given materials and instructions how to use them in rural areas. All the experiments were conducted in ordinary classrooms with no lab equipment necessary.

Walter Sisulu University also trained student teachers and teachers from around the Eastern Cape to teach at the school.

“These centres will equip WSU lecturers and education students with a better background to provide training and guidance to teachers in this part of the province, and to contribute towards better education for learners at school level,” said eager WSU education faculty Acting Executive Dean, Professor Adriaan Coetser.

WSU School of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education director, Dr Prince Jaca is the overall coordinator of the project and he says this is part of a bigger project of science development in the Eastern Cape.

He explains that the Eastern Cape will be divided into regions which incorporate the Transkei, Pondoland, Matatiele and so forth where centres will be erected and all schools will have a science centre which won’t be more than an hour’s drive away.

“But that will take time,” he said, “because the main purpose is to develop science teachers first, then the results and progress will show with time.

“This way every child will have access to these centres so that when they get to varsity they won’t be overwhelmed by labs,” said Jaca.

Jaca added that for successful science development in the Eastern Cape one would need an institution to provide scientific development and because these projects are costly, financial muscle is necessary to bridge the gap that was once faced by WSU in terms of finding a partner who is willing to inject funding specifically for science development.

Peter Loscher says science development is their core business as a company.

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