Umjikelezo We-Science, a science outreach collaboration, held its second four-day roadshow during which it visited four schools in rural parts of KwaZulu-Natal to promote studies and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
Facilitators of the show include a team of 26 representatives from the Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education (CASME), the Durban Natural Science Museum, the Kitchen Chemistry Outreach Project at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, the KZN Science Centre, the Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC) at UKZN and the Unizulu Science Centre.
The team visited Charles Hlengwa High School in Illovo, Albini High School in Ntshongweni, Ubhedu Primary School in Hammarsdale and Banguni Secondary School in Mdlebeni, interacting with more than 1 200 learners.
Activities kicked off with a Sasol/Umjikelezo We-Science/CASME mobile science van handover – the vehicle was sponsored by Sasol and will be used by CASME between outreach projects.
Each organisation conducted busking activities that enabled learners to engage in a hands-on way, and proceedings included a science show.
On the first day, Sasol provided career information for senior learners and on the final day, Nautilus Engineering joined in to give learners an insight into engineering careers. STEC@UKZN provided additional information on entrance requirements into university.
This outreach has been organised for many communities in South Africa, most notably those in rural areas, which do not receive adequate exposure to and support from the science education community because of science awareness spaces such as museums, science centres and non-governmental organisations being based and operating mainly in or around urban environments.
The project’s name is drawn from the isiZulu word Umjikelezo, meaning circle, which is related to a cultural practice of church groups taking their message on the road to communities.
‘By initiating the Umjikilezo We-Science project, the participating organisations aim to bring the museum or science centre to the community,’ said Dr Tanja Reinhardt of STEC@UKZN. ‘The project seeks to bridge the spatial divide and expose learners to science literacy including career choices in STEM, spark their interest and feed their curiosity.’
The team received enthusiastic receptions from schools they visited – the headmistress of Ubhedu Primary said she was ‘over the moon’ to have the team there and expressed her wish that they visit again. The school suffers from a lack of funding, ruling out visits to museums or science centres.
Parents from the governing body at the school and a representative from the local radio station conducted an interview with Reinhardt and Dr Stephen Ashworth of Kitchen Chemistry.