Science essentials at the local spaza

Any belief that the country’s youth lacks enthusiasm for science is being disproved by Science Spaza, a network of self-initiated clubs at schools and communities across the country.

In the course of producing learner-friendly educational material, a process begun in 2002, KwaZulu-Natal-based Jive Media struck on the idea of creating a platform to support and promote science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) education.

The vision was realised in March 2013 through Science Spaza, which introduced interactive and fun curriculum-linked learning to a growing network of science clubs in schools.

The programme, which uses the slogan “knowledge is ncah!”, has expanded to include 70 clubs and reaches more than 1 500 pupils.

Robert Inglis, co-founder of the Science Spaza initiative, explained that the name was derived from the idea of a local “spaza” shop at which pupils can pick up their “science essentials”. These science learning resources contain simple, practical activities that help to deepen understanding of science concepts, using readily available objects ­– even in low-resourced areas.

Jive Media drew on its long-standing partnership with Madam & Eve cartoonist Rico to produce material that is both accessible and engaging to a broad range of pupils.

“The practical experience they get from running their own experiments helps them to build a better understanding of what can be very abstract concepts,” said Inglis.

Science Spaza has moved beyond comics by collaborating with New York-based hip-hop science education professor Chris Emdin to promote science learning through a rap and hip-hop songwriting and performance contest.

The Hip Hop Science Spaza was supported by award winning rap artist iFani in a partnership with the popular SABC2 youth television show Hectic Nine-9.

Inglis is excited about the possibilities for scaling up the project. “We’re always thinking about how to scale up without making the administration too complex,” he said. “If we can create materials for 10 schools, there’s no reason [why] we can’t reach 500 or more.”

He said extended reach would help make corporate social spend more effective. Many companies struggle with achieving scale and measuring their social investment impact.

“Our job is to grow the spaces where these resources are being used and to continue developing the metrics, which will help companies gauge the impact their funding is making,” he said.

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