New labs make science real for school kids

Eva Manga, left, and Azraa Petersen, play around with the new equipment.

York Road Primary School in Lansdowne was one of five Cape Town schools which received new science labs last week, thanks to the University of the Western Cape’s Science Learning Centres for Africa (UWC-SLCA), in partnership with the Garden Cities Archway Foundation and the Western Cape Education Department.

On Tuesday February 21, the five new science labs were launched at Ocean View High School in Ocean View, York Road Primary School in Lansdowne, Spes Bona High School in Athlone, Phakama High School in Philippi and Manzomthombo High School in Mfuleni.

The science lab at York Road Primary School seats 40 pupils and also includes an interactive whiteboard.

In 2011, UWC-SLCA, in partnership with Garden Cities Archway Foundation, started the construction of science laboratories (UWC Science Learning Centres) at Western Cape schools.

The Western Cape Education Department joined the partnership in 2016, and contributes one-third of the costs associated with the SLCs.

These five schools will bring the total to forty-five science labs constructed, with another three to be opened soon.

Ward 60 councillor Mark Kleinschmidt – himself a former teacher – said that the science lab would ignite a desire in children for maths and science.

“If we look at South Africa, we are ranked lowest in the world in terms of maths and science. I salute UWC Science Learning Centre for the initiative so that the children can acquire skills.

“The school is usually considered a central laboratory of learning in communities. With a sophisticated science lab like this, the teachers who used to work in ordinary classrooms can now work in a scenario which is conducive for experi-
ments and scientific learning,” he said.

Mr Kleinschmidt added that he was very excited for the school and for the other schools which would receive the science labs as well.

“This is not only exciting for the school but for the community as well,” he added.

Mark Joseph Frank Ogilvie, the science teacher at York Road Primary School, said pupils would now get practical experience instead of just learning theory.

“A science lab like this means that I can finally make science real for the children where they can get hands-on experience in touching the test tubes and how to mix chemicals.

“I want to inspire them through this lab to be scientists in the future. They used to bring things from home like food colouring, now they actually have a lab. The school can now offer science courses and teacher training courses.

“It’s really the opening of a door into a magnificent science future,” he said.

Professor Shaheed Hartley from UWC said the new science lab would give pupils and teachers an opportunity to interact with each other through science and improve the skills of teachers to teach science practically and (in a) hands-on (manner).

“All the equipment that we have provided – everything is geared towards the improvement of the teaching of science so that when learners move on from here to high school and university they won’t find the situation so daunting,” he said.

Professor Hartley also said he planned to connect the smart whiteboard to his lab at UWC so that pupils could see what is happening via Skype.