Mathapelo Maile does not think small. This tenacious 17-year-old is currently studying BSc Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Witwatersrand. Her long-term goal is to develop aircraft that are less harmful to the environment. She is one of hundreds of young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds who are striving to change the world through science and technology.
Mathapelo’s ambition was sparked at Lodirile Secondary School in Rietvallei, a township on the outskirts of Krugersdorp. She joined a mathematics and science tutoring programme run by the Adopt-a-School Foundation and fell in love with science. Her excellent matric results earned her a bursary from CRET, a sister organisation of the Foundation.
“As we celebrate World Science Day on Friday, 10 November 2017, we are encouraged to share the hundreds of success stories like Mathapelo’s,” says Banyana Mohajane, Head of Skills and Social Development at Adopt-a-School Foundation. “There is a wealth of untapped potential in science and mathematics in our schools. We simply need to identify and support these young people to realise their full potential,” she continues.
Producing graduates in science and mathematics does more than uplift young people, it is critical for the development of South Africa’s economy. There is a persistent shortage of skills in all the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in South Africa.* Thousands of posts are currently filled by skilled migrants who often send their earnings back to their home countries.**
With South Africa’s unemployment rate at a 13 year high of 27%, it is vital that the next generation obtain the skills required to succeed in the 21st century economy. By 2020, as many as 80% of jobs created will require STEM education. This makes improving education in science and maths absolutely imperative for a prosperous nation.*
“We find that the most effective way to get learners excited about science is to give them an opportunity to take part in experimental learning,” explains Mohajane. “What a child touches and sees, they will never forget,” she continues.
This kind of experimental learning requires the proper facilities, which is why the Foundation and its partner organisation, the Kagiso Shanduka Trust (KST), have built 57 science laboratories at schools that are unable to afford them. Adopt-a-School has also supported and developed more than 2 000 science and maths educators, and helped to establish maths and science clubs at hundreds of schools.
This integrated approach to improving outcomes at schools is called the Whole School Development Model (WSD) and has been pioneered by the Foundation over the last 15 years. Rather than focus on individual issues, WSD works to improve the school holistically including the leadership, academic, infrastructural and social environment in which a school operates.
“One of the most encouraging outcomes of our programme is the learners’ change in attitude toward mathematics and science,” says Mohajane. “There is a marked increase in the number of learners enrolling for mathematics versus mathematics literacy, as well as improvements in performance in both maths and science,” she continues.
Adopt-a-School Foundation is currently raising money to build a fully resourced, state-of-the-art science laboratory at Modilati Secondary School in Hammanskraal, Gauteng. This project will also include intensive and holistic educator development in curriculum management, teaching methodologies, experimental teaching and laboratory management.
“If you believe in the power of STEM education, and you want to make a difference in the lives of the country’s youth, please visit our donation page at https://www.givengain.com/cc/buildasciencelab/ and contribute whatever you can,” says Mohajane. “This is an opportunity to directly contribute to the future of our country. I hope that many more people will take this opportunity and join us in our mission to bridge the gap between the world of science and the world of the African child,” she concluded.