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Mobile labs to boost maths, science in rural schools

Written by Lunga Ngqengelele
A computer-based curricula project is expected to boost mathematics and science education in the rural uMkhanyakude District in KwaZulu-Natal.

The initiative, led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has seen four mobile labs – each with 40 computers – donated to non-government organisation Mpilonhle, to assist 29 schools in the uMkhanyakude District.

Mpilonhle is dedicated to identifying and implementing innovative solutions to the health and social problems faced by young people in the country, especially among impoverished youth living in rural areas.

The mobile labs will also see teachers in the district receiving training in teaching computer-based curricula. This is expected to improve mathematics and science skills in a district where performance in these subjects has traditionally been poor.

In the 2014 Annual National Assessment, Grade 6 learners in the uMkhanyakude District achieved an average of 40.1 per cent in Mathematics. Grade 9 learners only achieved an average of 9.2 per cent in Mathematics versus 10.8 per cent for the nation as a whole.

The majority of schools in the region lack computer labs for learners. For this reason, the area was earmarked to benefit from the Mpilonhle computer-based learning initiative.

Enoch Buthelezi, the principal of Madwaleni High School, one of the benefiting schools, said: “The school appreciates the DST's support of this project, as science and technology innovations can help South Africa to tackle poverty, create sustainable jobs and enhance the delivery of basic services.”

Speaking at the handover of the project at Madwaleni High School, Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said information and communication technology (ICT) was crucial to delivering skills to learners and benefiting marginalised communities.

“ICT can make a difference in the learning and teaching of Mathematics and Science, and we know that these subjects provide learners with a gateway to wide-ranging career options,” she said.

The Minister added that the roll-out of broadband was one of government’s focus areas to ignite economic growth and create jobs, citing as examples the ICT Research, Development and Innovation Implementation Roadmap and the large-scale initiative implemented by the DST in the Eastern Cape to test how ICT can improve education in rural areas.

Minister Pandor also interacted with the community to raise awareness of the impact of science and technology on society, as well as other matters related to government services.

On the sidelines, the public were given an opportunity to experience for themselves how exciting science can be, with shows and demonstrations.

 

* Lunga Ngqengelele works for the Department of Science and Technology.

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