A PPS Professional Confidence Index (PCI) conducted in 2016 among over 3 800 South African graduate professionals revealed that 92% of the survey respondents were concerned about the standard of mathematics and science education in South Africa. It is a well established fact that maths and science is fundamental to contribute to the key sectors such as engineering, medicine and business to ensure the economy of the country is steered toward growth.
One of the most effective ways to address the skills shortage and unemployment rate in the country is to foster effective collaboration between the government and private sector through well known methods such as offering internships and bursaries.
The SAICE committee in Durban engaged with a rather unique organisation known as the Midlands community college which has been running a Mobile Science Laboratory since 2002. The College assists under-resourced schools that do not have science laboratories or the equipment to conduct curriculum-aligned science experiments in the KZN area. The college is an NGO funded primarily through sponsorship from the private sector. Over 900 experiments are conducted annually and more than 6000 learners benefit from the programme.
The Durban SAICE committee identified with the ideals of the initiative and mandated a team to source funding for as many schools as possible. Focus Project Management/Loliwe Rail Solutions responded favourably to the request. It was decided that 5 schools would be chosen as a pilot for this year. Through the SAICE-FOCUS initiative, following schools in the Umhlazi Area were beneficiaries of the programme:
- Igagasi High
- Sompukwane High
- Folweni High
- Siphephele High
- Ntwenhle High
About 200 Grade 12 learners were able to conduct their Physical Science experiments; be given tutoring and appropriate learning material through the programme during their Winter Break.
Members of the SAICE committee and Focus team undertook a visit to one of the schools – it was a heart-warming and uplifting experience since the team was also able to provide career advice to extremely eager young minds. It is envisioned that the initiative can be grown to benefit more schools in the future. It is also hoped that the initiative can be integrated into other programmes such as a feeding scheme and formalized career counselling so as to create a greater impact.
Usually the aim of public-private partnerships is to bolster local economic development however this initiative provided the opportunity for Focus and SAICE Durban to backward integrate into the heart of harnessing positivity through the lives of the youth. There is untold merit in that and it is hoped that initiatives like these become the norm rather than a luxury.