Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom on Tuesday unveiled programmes in Carnarvon, the town nearest to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) site, to boost maths and science education in the area.
South Africa will be sharing the world's largest telescope – which comprises thousands of antennas – with Australia, and the core site will be located about 80km from the Northern Cape town.
But while this cutting-edge scientific infrastructure is being built down the road, Carnarvon, like many agricultural towns in the area, struggles with poor matric results and few prospects for learners who do manage to pass. In a 2009 report, the University of the Free State's Centre for Development Support found that 80% of Carnarvon adults did not have a matric.
SKA industry partners have supported the establishment of a community knowledge centre and an e-school initiative, which will see hundreds of computers installed in schools, internet connection, a mobile science laboratory and teacher training programmes will also be implemented.
The computers installed were pre-loaded with learning materials, lesson plans and tutorials focused on maths, science, life sciences and astronomy, SKA South Africa said.
'Sustainable educational ecosystem'
"Developing a sustainable educational ecosystem around the SKA project will not only benefit the community, schools, teachers and learners, but, in the longer term, the SKA project as a work place and South Africa as a nation," said SKA South Africa's Tracy Cheetham.
Industry partners include Intel, IBM, Cisco, Dimension Data, Microsoft and many others.
"We are deeply grateful for an appreciative of the generous support we have received from the private sector," Hanekom said at the unveiling of the initiatives. "This support will enable the community to participate in the SKA initiative and will certainly bring about improvements in the lives of local people.
"We look forward to seeing more and more learners benefit from this initiative and, in future, work on the SKA project itself as engineers, technicians and scientists."
Sarah Wild was a guest of SKA South Africa