Soweto - Hope could be seen and heard at the Diepdale Secondary School in Diepkloof, Soweto, as pupils sang at the launch of the school’s state-of-the-art maths and science centre on Wednesday

The nearly R1 million Allianz maths and science centre was created through a partnership between Allianz Group and the SA Medical & Educational Foundation (Same), and will provide at least 1 000 Grade 8-12 pupils with access to facilities and resources aimed to increase hands-on learning and vocational skills.

These include renovated classrooms smelling of fresh paint filled with new maths textbooks that can be accessed on tablets, smart whiteboards that electronically display the periodic table of elements with a touch of a finger, LED microscopes and life-sized models of the human body. 

This is a big step up for the school, which did not have a single microscope before. Previously, pupils had to learn about chemical reactions and the human body from a textbook.

“I think pupils will perform better because now we are learning things we can see in the labs,” said Tebogo Moroti, the Grade 12 class representative.

“Pupils prefer visual learning because once they experience something they will never forget it.”

In 2017, Diepdale pupils had a 58% pass rate, with lower percentages in maths and science, a rate principal Johannes Munakisi called a disgrace. 

“We cannot compromise the futures of these children. We will improve results, we cannot negotiate about that,” he said.

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) Africa chief executive Thusang Mahlangu said these pass rates combined with his own experience as a child growing up in Soweto informed his desire to give back to the community.

AGCS Africa was one of five winners in an internal Allianz Group competition among 31 countries, which called on participants to submit innovative social impact projects for a grant of almost R1m. The group submitted a carefully crafted proposal that outlined the plans, including AGCS Africa’s partnership with Same, which worked with the Department of Basic Education to select Diepdale as the beneficiary.

Mahlangu said they won because “our country needs it the most”.

Public officials were invited to speak at the event, including representatives from the local and national Department of Basic Education and local councillors.

They promised to follow the school’s progress and said the new centre would serve as an example for other local schools. 

Department of Basic Education circuit manager Busisiwe Luthuli said: “Before, the playing field was not levelled enough, but we are going to get results here.”

Attendees also had the opportunity to explore the centre and the resources it housed. 

Partners discussed the maths books which would help learners understand difficult terms, e-learning capabilities and future technology training plans for the teachers. 

Proud pupils demonstrated their newly acquired knowledge of the donated technology by showing guests microscopes, circuit boards and human anatomy diagrams.

Grade 11 learner Adelia Masinga said that although she’d only started experimenting with the new technology centre that morning, it was already motivating her to reconsider her career. 

While Mahlangu acknowledged that change wouldn't happen overnight and the launch was the beginning of a three-year partnership with the school,

Munakisi said he had already seen a shift in attitudes of the learners.

The Star