Uplifting SA youth through science and technology
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Before addressing the Universities South Africa (USAf) indaba in Pretoria on last Thursday, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande, launched a Science Centre in rural Cofimvaba named after late struggle stalwart Albertina Sisulu.
Describing Sisulu as an outstanding leader, Nzimande said the centre would give the local communities opportunities to study to better their lives through knowledge and innovation, which can help their livelihoods.
According to the South African History Online website, Sisulu was one of the prominent anti-apartheid South African leaders, widely referred to as the “Mother of the Nation”.
The wife of former secretary-general and deputy president of the ANC, Walter Sisulu, grew up in Tsomo in the former Transkei, about 30km from the centre, which took five years to build.
Sisulu died on 2 June 2011.
Nzimande said that the concept for the science centre in Cofimvaba was born through the Technology for Rural Education and Development (Tech4RED) project. It was through the efforts of a partnership between the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE), and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
He added that the project seeks to improve education in rural areas by piloting technological innovation for water and sanitation, energy, nutrition, and health.
The science centre will house interactive exhibits and use a hands-on approach to enable residents in Cofimvaba and surrounding villages to participate in science. “It is an expression of bringing science to the people, enhancing prospects for grassroots innovation,” he said.
In addition, the centre will play a role in science communication and serve 26 high schools in the area, previously served by a mobile science unit donated by the DSI and Sasol.
Nzimande said the centre is the first in South Africa to be purpose-designed, with green science, technology, and innovation used in the actual building. The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) - an entity of the DSI - designed this centre. Its design demonstrates how extremely environmentally-friendly buildings can be created, constructed, and utilized.
On Thursday, addressing the Universities South Africa’s (USAf) 2nd National Higher Education Conference, organised with the Council on Higher Education (CHE) in Pretoria, Nzimande said South Africa was at a crossroads.
The minister said that recent crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic, along with disruptive effects of technological change, are posing a diversity of critical challenges, among them the “increasingly precarious location of women in society and communities, worsening gender inequalities, reinforcing patriarchy and the multiple crises of social reproduction”.
“Today, after much rancour, there is widespread agreement that substantial changes must be made to overcome deep structural barriers to economic participation by black, women, and working people in the economy,” he said.