Farewell to Berlinda Donker

Earlier this week we said goodbye to Berlinda Donker, with a surprise farewell party in the Ukhanyo School Science Lab. Berlinda has worked with Masicorp for the past three years as the assistant to Fran Loudon on the Science Lab project, and has proven to be an invaluable asset. As the three year funding program comes to an end Berlinda is moving on to pastures new, and also moving away from Masiphumelele with work taking her to Johannesburg.

berlindaIt was a joyous but also sad occasion as many of the schools teaching and administrative staff were joined by the Masicorp team to wish her well. There were the occasional tears, but mostly a lot of singing and dancing, and more than anything a lot of thanks. Berlinda’s role has been crucial to the project as she has provided the link between the community and the Masicorp volunteer team. Her role has involved managing the schedule and inventory of the project, including maintaining the lab and its resources. Many times she has come to the aid of Fran and the teachers as they handle classes of up to 50 children at a time.

Berlinda has provided Xhosa translation for the project but also computer skills as well, as her background in public administration has enabled her to upskill the schools staff. It has not been unusual to see her helping out with downloads and running computer software anywhere from the front desk of the school to the principal’s office. She has also found the time to complete a degree in public administration at the same time, through part time study with UNISA.

iwanttosinggospel-top10liveinconcertAmongst all the singing and joy at the party Berlinda found time to thank everyone with a song of her own. You could hear a pin drop in the room as she treated everyone to a beautiful piece of gospel singing. Anyone who knows Berlinda would not have been surprised to hear this because amongst her many skills she is also an experienced musician. Before joining Masicorp she was a top 10 finalist on “I want to sing Gospel” – a reality TV show shown nationally on SABC. She later returned to the series as a guest judge. Here song “He Lifted Me Up” is still available for download HERE.

We wish Berlinda all the best in the future and cannot thank her enough for everything that she has done for the project.

Technology Resource Kits for Ukhanyo Learners

There was excitement among the grade 7’s this week as they arrived at Ukhanyo’s science lab for their technology classes. Masicorp has recently funded the provision of 12 Technology Resource Kits for the pupils to use in their project work. These were just some of the pleased faces in Wednesday’s afternoon class.

box Many thanks are due to Masicorp volunteer Rachel Weldon who took the time last week to visit many of the peninsula’s hardware stores to purchase the tools the students will use. Her engineering background has come in extremely useful for us all. Thanks also to Fran Loudon for taking the first class and introducing the students to each piece of equipment. Here she is demonstrating the use of a hacksaw.

sawGrade 7’s Technology mark is based on a PAT (Practical Assessment Task). This term the pupils are studying structures and need to design and build a model of a cellphone tower that should fit in with the surroundings. It has to be 30cm or taller, have a platform at the top, use triangulation for reinforcement and be constructed from easily available materials. Thanks are due here to Valley Timbers who have kindly offered to supply the school with an extensive supply of wood off-cuts that will do the job nicely.

In previous years the limited resources at the school meant that the pupils had to make their design projects from paper, tape and cardboard. This year will be different and after being introduced to each tool the students had some time to get used to them before project work starts for real next week.

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Ukhanyo Science Lab – bucking the national trend in science education

The recent release of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Global Information Technology Report 2014” has been making the headlines in South Africa today. It is a weighty document, but the one finding reported that has caused most concern to South African’s is that the quality of South Africa’s maths and science education places it last out of 148 countries considered. On the face of it this is a damning statistic, but the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has been quick to dismiss the significance of the report’s conclusions.

The DBE pointed out that the report’s conclusions were not based on the results of any testing or assessments at schools, but were the opinions of business executives. Selected business leaders were asked to comment on the quality of maths and science education in the country. Of course as the employers of school leavers there is every reason for the business leaders interviewed to express an opinion. With business leaders in Haiti, Chad and Lesotho ranking their science teaching higher than we do in South Africa, there is clearly some cause for concern here. The debate looks set to continue but there remains little doubt that there are serious shortcomings in the quality of science and maths education in South Africa. We know from our bursary scheme that mathematics is often the subject area that students struggle most with, and require most extra tuition, after leaving school for further education.

Fortunately we are confident that many Masiphumelele students are getting a strong grounding in science due to the success of our Science Lab programme. The project, which has been running since 2011, has provided Ukhanyo Primary School with exceptional science learning facilities. The project leader, Fran Loudon, has committed three years to the project during which time the qualified science teacher has transferred her skills to the school’s teaching staff. Science is a subject area that is now delivered with confidence and enthusiasm.

UkhanyoScienceLab-34There is definitely an interest in science subjects among the school children of Masiphumelele, as we know from the large number of school leavers approaching Masicorp for bursary support to study science subjects at university. We currently have students taking biotechnology, pharmacy, mechanical engineering and agricultural sciences. There maybe problems in science teaching nationally, but we are making great strides to rectify this in Masiphumelele.

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