Science catch-up for Northern areas schools

2016-02-24 06:00
Tinus Sonnekus, a lecturer in Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s STEM in Action programme, helps Grade 10 learners with their electricity experiment.                 Photo: SUPPLIED

Tinus Sonnekus, a lecturer in Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s STEM in Action programme, helps Grade 10 learners with their electricity experiment. Photo: SUPPLIED

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FOR the next few weeks – for as long as it takes – NMMU will be providing extra practical science sessions for Grade 10 to 12 learners from Northern areas schools to help learners make up for lost time.

“They can experience practically what’s going to be taught, so that teachers can then spend a shorter time teaching it. The teachers need to maximise their time. They are under such a lot of pressure.”

This, according to Isabel van Gend, Programme Manager for NMMU’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in Action programme, which runs in more than 40 high schools throughout Nelson Mandela Bay, including six Northern areas schools, namely Bertram, David Livingstone, Chapman High, St James, Gelvandale and Nasrudin Islamic high schools.

Northern areas schools opened last week after an almost month-long shutdown, sparked by last year’s poor provincial and citywide matric results, and alleged mismanagement by the provincial Department of Education.

Many schools have extended their school hours and suspended sport, to enable their pupils to catch up.

STEM in Action’s practical sessions take place during pre-booked morning slots from Monday to Thursday at NMMU’s Missionvale Campus, and complement the theory being taught in the classroom, but they have introduced additional Friday morning and afternoon sessions – which also kicked off last week – specifically to accommodate the Northern areas schools.

“We are prepared to fit them in, to help them out. These sessions will run until the schools feel they’ve caught up, and then they will fit back into the normal Monday to Thursday sessions.”

STEM in Action offers physical science experiments to the entire physical science class, including their teacher.

“Each learner is involved in actually doing the science experiments. For many [in our programme], it is the first time they are doing a practical or even entering a lab,” Van Gend said.

STEM in Action also runs a parallel Get Ahead in Technology and Engineering (GATE) programme for learners who show the most potential.

Northern Areas learners already in this programme have been attending these classes from the start of the school year.

“Although their schools were closed, we contacted them on their cell phones and encouraged them to come.”

Van Gend added that the programme included an “English in Science” component, where learners whose mother tongue is not English, can gain a greater understanding of the language used in science.

The purpose of STEM in Action, which is sponsored by the South African National Road Agency Limited (Sanral), is to promote careers in science and engineering. – REPORTER

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