Durban - Science and mathematics teachers have been urged to make their lessons more fun and exciting.
With South Africa having being ranked last in a recent World Economic Forum report that looked at the quality of maths and science education, pupils need both resources and creative teachers to better grasp the subjects. This is according to those behind a new campaign
that hopes to put some sparkle into school laboratories, starting with one Durban township.
In a partnership between the city, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and private stakeholders, more than R660 000 worth of science equipment will be donated to 20 high schools in uMlazi.
It is hoped that the equipment will assist in producing awareness - and eventually the engineers, mathematicians and scientists the country needs.
Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, a researcher at the UKZN college of science and technology, said there was a serious skills shortage of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
He stressed that children needed to get involved in science and experiment in the primary school phases, which he said laid good foundations for high school and university.
This would be vital if the National Development Plan was to succeed, he said, as the plan placed emphasis on a knowledge-based economy, innovation and skills development.
“We’ve got to have engineers to be able to invent and to generate that knowledge-based economy for you. That’s the serious side of it. We have a strong belief that South Africa can address the kind of socio-economic challenges we have as a nation by building a stronger foundation in science and technology, engineering.”
Megandhren Govender, who holds a doctorate in astrophysics and is a researcher at the UKZN school of mathematics, said if teachers persisted in teaching from textbooks and did not change the the style of their lessons, the results would not change.
“We need to tell a different story about science - change the mindset that it’s boring. We need to make it fun,” he said.
Carrying out various experiments based on scientific principles, Govender demonstrated the fundamentals of firing a rocket into orbit using a 2 litre bottle, a few drops of a chemical substance and a small flame. It worked.
Govender said he liked to mix entertainment with science, and had used music and dance as mechanisms to generate interest. A curious mind, he said, was better than one with knowledge because of its desire to learn and experiment.
He said if the city were to get a planetarium, it would generate a lot of interest from pupils.
Razak Moosa, chief executive of the Willowton Group, which has provided the bulk of the R500 000 donation, said the science kits had functions that would assist in the teaching of subjects of light, chemistry, sound and experiments.
The kits were for Grades 10 to 12 pupils and would be delivered to schools from Tuesday.
Moosa said that the kits would be a challenge for pupils and teachers alike
“There has been a huge amount of negative publicity recently regarding the performance of South African learners in mathematics and science… However, we are determined to change this through providing learners the best possible resources with the objective to improve results,” said Moosa.
Councillor Fawzia Peer, eThekwini’s finance committee chairwoman, said a video to demonstrate the role of an engineer would be shown to pupils at the 20 schools.
It explored the various avenues of engineering and detailed where pupils could study around the country.
“It is pleasing to see… private companies work together with the government to fight these challenges,” she said.
“The science kits donated to schools will go a long way in improving education in our country.”