Practical education is no experiment

2017-02-28 06:01
A new science lab was opened at Spes Bona High School last week.PHOTO: Earl Haupt

A new science lab was opened at Spes Bona High School last week.PHOTO: Earl Haupt

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The lives of more than 400 learners of Spes Bona High School in Hazendal have been changed with the opening of their new science laboratory on Tuesday.

The lab will allow teachers and learners to interact in a more practical manner, instead of merely watching videos of experiments and calculations on YouTube.

The lab was one of five launched on the day by UWC’s Science Learning Centre for Africa (SLCA), along with the Garden Cities Archway Foundation and the provincial education department. It boasts a smartboard that connects to the internet and allows off-site lessons to be taught via streaming.

Amanda Matta, Spes Bona’s principal, is elated that the school finally has a facility to help provide higher quality education.

“[This lab] is really going to help our Physics learners. We are really pushing for the gateway subjects (mathematics and physics) to give them a chance in life. Without maths and physics, our learners are not going to be able to compete actively. At least now, with this, we will be able to benefit,” Matta said on Tuesday.

Prof Shaheed Hartley, SLCA director, says the provision of the lab is an opportunity for the school to improve learners’ results in scientific subjects, while also potentially improving the school’s capacity for science teachers.

Myrtle February, chairperson of the Garden Cities Archway Foundation and a former teacher, has urged the school not to allow the lab to become a white elephant.

She has also asked teachers to use their passion for the subject and deliver it to the learners.

Prof Tyrone Pretorius, UWC rector, says the project’s success depends wholly on how strong the partnership between the various stakeholders can be maintained. He also says education is one of the “grand challenges” of the current generation.

“No single institution, no single researcher working alone in his lab is going to help us to address those grand challenges. The scope and complexity of our grand challenges require that institutions and individuals collaborate to address those grand challenges.

“The issue of maths and science and the performance of South Africa in maths and science is one of those grand challenges,” says Pretorius.

He adds no modern society could compete globally unless they have a firm grounding in science and maths.

“We all know that in South Africa we are really, really at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to science and maths education. I believe that partnerships like these, which are focused on empowering the next generation of scientists and technologists, are partnerships that we should all ­support.”

Pretorius applauds Hartley’s dedication to actively changing the way science is taught and not merely publishing papers on ideas that Hartley thought may improve the teaching of the subject.

“UWC is exceptionally proud of the Science Learning Centre for Africa initiative. It is about the next generation and entrusting the future of our country to the next generation,” says Pretorius.

Matta adds that the platform had been laid and now it was up to the school to ensure that what has been donated fulfils its full potential.

“This is just the beginning. The aim is now to maintain this lab. To ensure that it stays in this good status and that we use it and that our teachers are upskilled to use the things that we have here,” says Matta.

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