|The changing face of education in South Africa poses not only riveting challenges but also vital questions concerning methods of aligning the dispensation’s rationale practically and effectively. Science educators are often criticized for their poor subject matter knowledge and competence resulting in a considerable number of high school learners struggling to pass the gateway subjects satisfactorily.|
The University of Johannesburg (UJ)’s Science Centre at the Soweto Campus is addressing this challenge by playing a crucial part in science education in the country. The Centre, which was established in 2010, will host, in partnership with the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) and the Institute of Physics (IOP) (UK), more than 300 science educators during a four-day teachers’ development workshop from 06 to 09 July 2015. UJ’s Science Centre was established, as a community engagement project, to open the door of knowledge for school children, teachers and the community of Soweto.
Says Prof Azwinndini Muronga, Director of UJ’s Soweto Science Centre: “There is no doubt that the country needs serious intervention strategies that could strengthen mentorship, support and guidance in curriculum implementation at secondary school level, especially at Grade 10, 11 and 12 level. The Centre aims to address some of the challenges faced by our country in the areas of Mathematics, Science, Engineering, Technology, and Innovation.”
Dr Sam Ramaila, a Senior UJ Physics Lecturer and SAIP Education Portfolio Chairperson echoes Prof Muronga’s sentiments adding that “meaningful human capital development within the broader South African context remains a key strategic priority for the fulfilment of societal and economic needs.” He pointed out that the teacher development project, supported by Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the British High Commission’s Prosperity Fund, is a key initiative of the SAIP with the vision to expand nationally.
Dr Ramaila highlights that the Centre also fulfils a vitally important function in the community because it not only encourages learners to do well in matric, but it also prepares them for the challenges associated with university studies. “University lecturers and tutors noticed that some learners are academically not well prepared for university. Many of the schools in Soweto do not have laboratories where learners can do practical experiments,” says Dr Ramaila.
Prof David Wolfe of the UK Institute of Physics also stresses the significance of South Africa’s role in the scientific field. Page Content “South Africa has immense opportunity in the future with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which represents the largest single astronomy programme in the history of humanity. This is one of the biggest scientific efforts ever… and 80% of the infrastructure will be developed in South Africa. We will continue to disseminate knowledge to as many teachers as we can, and try to encourage those teachers to use that knowledge in their work with the learners,” said Prof Wolfe.
As the epicenter of pedagogic innovation, the UJ Soweto Science Centre is ideally poised to play an important role in nation-building efforts through the provision of innovative science theory and laboratory lessons, computer training, exhibitions focussing on aspects of everyday life and other developments relevant to South Africa. The Centre also assists in empowering and enhancing the skills of mathematics teachers. The Centre provides teachers with the educational support of and assistance with learning content, mathematical and science related skills such as conducting laboratory experiments, professional development, knowledge and skills related to curriculum development and implementation. The Centre serves as an alternative and additional resource centre for mathematics and science teachers. Mathematics and science study rooms as well as a computer laboratory with internet access are primarily used to train teachers in the use of relevant technology at different levels for various purposes.