/ 2 October 2023

Advancing Knowledge NPC preparing STEM Education for the fourth industrial revolution

The opening of Science TLC at Trafalgar Secondary: Salwa Southgate (principal), John Matthews (CEO Garden Cities), Professor Shaheed Hartley (Director AK NPC), Siraj Desai (Retired High Court Judge), Igshaan Higgins (Cape Heritage Curator).

Science Teaching and Learning Centres Programme at Cape schools reaches its 100th milestone

One hundred under-resourced schools in the Western Cape have now received purpose-designed and constructed Science Teaching and Learning Centres (Science TLCs) in a programme that started 12 years ago as a project by leading science educationist Professor Shaheed Hartley, the Director of Advancing Knowledge NPC (AK NPC).

The object of the programme is to provide facilities to assist with practical experience in school subjects such as Physics and Chemistry. The partners in the project are Hartley and his non-profit initiative, AK NPC; the Garden Cities Archway Foundation; and the Western Cape Education Department.

The partnership has received accolades for its far-reaching support programmes that improve the teaching and learning of science and mathematics in disadvantaged schools. Against major odds, it has successfully improved the infrastructure for these gateway subjects to be taught successfully.

The latest round of construction yielded nine new Science TLCs at Western Cape schools, which were officially opened on the following dates:

Wed 13 September 2023Tues 19 September 2023Friday 22 September 2023
Diazville Secondary, SaldanhaTrafalgar Secondary, Cape TownHermeslaan Primary, Atlantis
Diazville Primary, SaldanhaFairmount Secondary, Grassy ParkSchoonspruit Sec, Malmesbury
Louwville Secondary, VredenburgKraaifontein Secondary, Kraaifontein
Erica Primary, Belhar

This round of schools brought the total Science TLCs constructed in the partnership to 103, with the 100th Science TLC opening celebrated at Kraaifontein Secondary School.

Given the right opportunities, all learners have a chance to be successful.

The schools that have received the science teaching and learning centres cover the length and breadth of the Western Cape and include under-resourced schools in suburbs surrounding Cape Town, as well as those further afield including Blue Downs, Kuils River, Worcester, Robertson, Ceres, Grabouw, Bonnievale, Atlantis, Saldanha, Clanwilliam, Mossel Bay, George and Plettenberg Bay.

The construction of the Science Teaching and Learning Centres is an extension of the curriculum support provided by AK NPC and serves as a reward to committed science teachers, school managements, learners and curriculum officials whose performance is negatively affected by lack of practical teaching facilities.

Hartley is on record as saying: “We have to start with the basics in terms of supporting teachers to have the confidence to teach science with an advanced level of understanding, knowledge and skills. Similarly, we have to be creative in providing learners with opportunities that will claim their interest and willingness to learn. Developing a strong culture of science teaching and learning will be a good start to prepare learners to take their place in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). 

“Having a confident and knowledgeable science teacher, in a conducive environment provided by the Science Teaching and Learning Centres, are steps in the right direction.”

John Matthews, Group CEO of Garden Cities (NPC) (RF) says that the company’s CSI component, the Archway Foundation, was created to improve the opportunities for children in the Western Cape, who, through historic circumstances, have not received equal resources to further their education.  “The Science TLC project is one of the vehicles through which Garden Cities, as a non-profit corporation, invests in meeting South Africa’s future human resource needs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), particularly within a 4IR environment. “

Retired school Principal Myrtle February, Chairperson of the Archway Foundation,  says the foundation first became involved when Hartley mooted the idea of developing the Learning Centres (Science TLCs) at schools in disadvantaged areas.  “As a result of the lack of adequate facilities, physical sciences and all related subjects were not offered at many schools, so learners opted for those subjects that could be taught within the confines of conventional classrooms.  

Learners at Louwville Secondary experiment with new equipment.

“This led to a general disinterest in science subjects and created a shortage of learners pursuing careers in that field. At that stage the Archway Foundation was already chipping away at the huge scarcity of school halls, of which there are now 118.  John Matthews and the GC board of directors considered this to be a worthwhile project to support financially and so provide young learners with the facilities to compete on an equal footing with the top schools in the country.

“At Garden Cities we work from the premise that, given the opportunities, all learners have the ability to be successful.  Social circumstances and lack of facilities should not determine their future success.”  

Education MEC David Maynier, speaking at the opening of the Science TLC at Fairmount Secondary, expressed the importance of this partnership as it “refurbishes physical science laboratories, and supplies science equipment and chemicals for the lab, and training for science teachers which includes teachers from surrounding schools as well”.

Joanni Bakola, a learner at Trafalgar, said that she believes that the gift of the Science TLC “will inspire generations of learners to never lose faith in the inherent goodness of human nature and its ability to transform lives”.

Organisations and corporates that want to contribute to this important initiative to empower and capacitate science practitioners to build a critical mass of future STEM participants, are encouraged to contact AK NPC Director Professor Hartley via [email protected], or 083 793 0436.