Learners to benefit from Science2Go Mobile Resource Centre

Learners participating in the fun science Carbon Dioxide experiment.                                   Photo: MILEMAN MEDIA

Learners participating in the fun science Carbon Dioxide experiment. Photo: MILEMAN MEDIA

IN an effort to bolster education and deliver practical and hands-on science learning experiences, approximately 10 000 learners and 30 teachers at 11 high schools in Nelson Mandela Bay will benefit from the launch of an exciting new Science2Go Mobile Resource Centre, funded by the Ford Motor Company.

The Science2Go project will also conduct a rural roadshow outreach in partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Basic Education. The roadshow will reach an additional 5 000 learners at 10 schools, and provide training to a further 300 teachers to increase their competence and confidence in delivering practical and impactful science lessons.

The Science2Go initiative is run by the Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education Trust (CASME), in collaboration with founding project partner, Mahle Behr South Africa.

Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, is supporting the project for a period of three years, with a grant of R1.4 million in the first year. Additionally, Ford South Africa donated a locally-built Ford Ranger pick-up that is used as the mobile science laboratory and resource centre.

“Science2Go is an initiative by CASME and Mahle Behr to bridge the gaps in science teaching and learning in public schools,” said Henre Benson, director of CASME.

“The Science2Go Mobile Resource Centre is a cost-effective solution to address the lack of access to scientific educational resources in rural and peri-urban public schools that either lack the funds to provide adequate laboratory equipment or do not have any laboratories at all.

“It not only brings much-needed resources, but also provides experienced facilitators to build teachers’ capacity and skills.”

According to CASME, the National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) Standard Report indicates that only around 18% of ordinary public schools across the country have science laboratories, and in the Eastern Cape, this figure is even lower at less than six percent – which highlights the need for strategic interventions.

“Science2Go is tackling this situation head-on by providing a community of schools with access to both the resources and the expertise to deliver meaningful science teaching experiences,” Benson said.

“It will increase practical, hands-on learning and aims at enhancing learners’ interest, participation and enrolment in science at the senior secondary and tertiary level.”

Prior to the school visits, teachers will participate in workshops aimed at improving their skills and knowledge. Furthermore, the Science2Go team will provide learners with special sessions pertaining to career, study, and subject choice information relating to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Participating schools will also take part in an annual Science Olympiad, where learners’ knowledge and skills of practical science is evaluated.

“Over the three-year implementation of the project it is expected that learner performance will improve by 20 percent, and enrolment in physical sciences will increase by 20% in the project schools,” Benson said.

The selection of Nelson Mandela Bay as the location for this project is apt, as it is where Ford’s legacy started in South Africa in 1923.

It is also home to the Ford Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha, which opened in 1964.

The plant currently machines components and assembles engines that are used in the Ford Ranger and Everest produced at the Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria. Machined components and fully assembled engines are also exported to Europe, Asia and South America.

“Education plays a vital, foundational role in empowering and uplifting communities, particularly in South Africa where access to the necessary resources, training and practical learning opportunities is limited,” said Shawn Govender, plant manager of the Ford Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha.

“Partnering with innovative non-profit organisations and far-reaching projects such as Science2Go is essential to help equip the youth of today with the necessary skills and practical training that will help create the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

“Science2Go is a tangible way of addressing the dire shortage of qualified professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which is currently one of the major inhibitors of economic growth and job creation in South Africa,” Govender added.

“This skills shortage is clearly evident in our manufacturing operations where we battle to find qualified people to fill essential roles in all of the engineering fields, along with fast-developing sectors such as mechatronics and robotics.

“Therefore Ford is privileged to be supporting this project for the next three years in Nelson Mandela Bay, both through the grant from Ford Motor Company Fund, and by providing the mobility for the project with our proudly South African-built Ford Ranger, powered by an engine produced right here in Gqeberha. It reinforces our Ford+ value of caring for each other, and reaffirms our commitment to education by enhancing the skills of teachers and reigniting interest and enthusiasm for science among our learners.”

CASME was established in 1985 as an education development organisation, focusing on school maths and science interventions in South Africa. It is currently responsible for education projects across the country involving approximately 1 000 schools and around 2 800 teachers.

Since 2015, the project has reached 493 schools, 1 902 teachers and over 80 000 learners.

“We are proud to welcome Ford as the sponsor of our Science2Go Mobile Resource Centre in Nelson Mandela Bay,” said Alex Holmes, managing director, Mahle Behr South Africa. “It’s only through partnerships, such as this one, that South Africa can hope to enhance the skills of learners in the STEM space. We are grateful to Ford for its generosity towards this exciting endeavour.”

For more information on CASME and Science2Go, visit www.casme.org.za/science2go.html.