Phakama secondary gets new science lab

From left, are Professor Shaheed Hartley, director of UWC-SLCA; UWC rector and vice chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius; circuit manager Myrtle February; Phakama Secondary School principal Zamayedwa Jaxa and Garden Cities CEO John Matthews.

Many of the hurdles the country’s children face trying to learn science are now history at a Philippi East school, thanks to its new science lab.

The fully-equipped laboratory at Phakama Secondary School was made possible by the University of the Western Cape’s Science Learning Centres for Africa (UWC-SLCA), the Garden Cities Archway Foundation and the Western Cape Education Department.

The lab, which was officially handed over to the school on Tuesday February 21, will help pupils with maths and science – two subjects pivotal to creating a skilled workforce and accelerating South Africa’s economic growth, but which many young South Africans fail to master because schools often don’t have the facilities or adequately skilled teachers to do them justice.

It’s hoped the new lab at Phakama will turn science and maths results around at the school as well as at the 44 other schools where similar facilities have also been built.

In 2011, UWC-SLCA, in partnership with Garden Cities Archway Foundation, started building the laboratories, dubbed science learning centres or SLCs, at Western Cape schools.

The Western Cape Education Department joined the partnership in 2016, and now pays a third of the costs for building the labs.

According to Professor Shaheed Hartley, director of UWC-SLCA, the project is not just about building a laboratory.

They start with the basics by helping teachers to develop the confidence to teach science with an advanced level of understanding

“Phakama has always been part of the path we have travelled,” he told teachers and residents who had gathered at the school for the opening of the new facility.

“We are now providing a conducive learning space. We are providing equipment and apparatus to teach physics and science so that science can flourish.

“This is an opportunity to get knowledge.”

Teachers could no longer complain about a lack of equipment and space to teach, he said.

“We have to be creative in providing pupils with opportunities that will draw their interest and willingness to learn.

“Developing a culture of science teaching and learning will be a good start to improve National Senior Certificate and other assessments.

“We expect the kind of results that are quality.

“We are looking at the quality of passes,” he said.

UWC rector and vice chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius said the new lab came with a great responsibility. “No gift is free.

“This is the gift that is entrusted on you, as you know that science and maths are bad in the country.

“We must make sure that this laboratory does not only benefit the school but the community and the entire country,” he said.

School principal Zamayedwa Jaxa said the laboratory would inspire his pupils to study hard. “This will take us further.

“ It came at the right time. It will give the pupils energy and vigour to do their work.

“We have children that are very interested in the subjects.

“It will be good for their career paths,” he said.