Dingaan reaches for the stars while others party

2011-09-03 15:43

“Do you see this,” asks 19-year-old Dingaan Baartman, eagerly pointing to an illustration of one of the satellite dishes that have been set up outside the remote town of Carnarvon in Northern Cape.

“I am going to build one of these one day,” Baartman says, to the delight of the other pupils huddled together in the science lab at Carnarvon High School.

Baartman is one of the few students who has chosen maths and science at his school, and one of only six who take science in Grade 12 (there are 55 Grade 12 learners at the school).

Unlike his peers, who are uncertain as to why they chose maths and science or what they plan to do with them, he says he chose maths and science because he wants to become an electrical engineer.

“I love sums and solving problems and I believe that taking them will enable me to participate in the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) project in future.

“Having the project here means a lot to us. It will bring great work opportunities for our community,” says Baartman.
Many of the learners in the area have heard of the SKA project and the opportunities it might offer.

But few learners have taken advantage of the chance they have been given to participate in some of the initiatives, such as the computer lab that has been provided for them at the school.

Their teacher, Johannes Hoff, says learners’ ignorance and the shortage of permanent maths and science teachers are reasons for their lack of interest .

“These kids don’t realise the importance and benefits of having this project here,” says Hoff who, like Baartman, once had aspirations to become an electrical engineer.

A teacher for 17 years, two of which have been spent at this school, Hoff has experienced the positives and negatives of trying to inspire positive change among his students.

He says many of them spend their free time partying at a local club.

“Part of the problem with getting learners interested in maths and science lies in the fact that there is no stability in the maths and science teaching profession,” he says, surveying the state-of-the-art computer laboratory.

“When you ask the learners why they shy away from doing maths and science, they will tell you they see no point because there are times where they spend six months without a teacher, which does little for their morale.”

For Hoff, it is students like Baartman who have made his decision to dedicate his life to teaching worthwhile.

“Teaching enables me to wake up each morning and ask myself what I am going to achieve,” he says, keeping a close eye on Baartman as he conducts an experiment.

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