Change the world


Short lessons, recorded experiments, career exploration and wellness segments, are just a few of the interventions planned by Mandela University’s STEM IN ACTION’s programme to assist Grade 12 learners once they are back at school.

In 2019, some 2700 learners and their educators from 37 schools in Nelson Mandela Bay, benefited from this science and mathematics programme.

Several learners, especially Grade 12s, are currently facing anxiety, concern about the curriculum coverage and a shortage of data for online lessons, as a result of the country’s national lockdown to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.

These STEM IN ACTION’s interventions can assist with curriculum coverage and uncertainty about the future.

Isabel van Gend, STEM IN ACTION project manager, says their strategy is to support the educators with interactions that they identify and to support the learners by working together with them.

This includes hosting an online community of practice session once a week for all interested Physical Science educators. During these sessions, ideas and tips will be shared, not only about the teaching and learning of Physical Science but also how to best navigate and support learners in these challenging times.

However, it all depends on what the Department of Basic Education’s curriculum plans are when the school year resumes.

“There are talks of cutting certain content. We can only put definite plans in place when these parameters have been set. We are ready to assist online, but do not want to waste our time or the learners’ by assisting with content that is not relevant,” says Isabel.

The STEM IN ACTION programme, which runs from the University’s Missionvale Campus offers several Science projects. One of which assists and support 290 Grade 10 to 12 learners from 20 schools in curriculum-enhanced Physical Science interactions during four afternoons per week.

In addition, the programme supports 30 disadvantaged schools, including Khumbulani High School, Khwezi Lomso Comprehensive School and Morningside High School, to improve their chances of success, including experiencing real-life physical science experiments in their laboratories on the Missionvale Campus.

All interactions are aimed at improving National Senior Certificate results, increasing the number of learners choosing Physical Science as a subject and to inspire learners to follow careers in Science and Engineering.

The programme also includes exposure to study methods and skills and career exploration opportunities for several of the projects under the STEM in ACTION umbrella.

The University’s School of Engineering partnered with the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) in 2010 to start the STEM IN ACTION programme which aims to equip learners with the necessary skills to enter the Science, Technology and Engineering (STEM) fields. To date, more than 17 000 learners have participated in the programme.

The programme was started due to the decline in the number of students qualifying for courses enabling them to become professional engineers.

Isabel says many learners have been disadvantaged in trying to achieve the entry requirements for diploma and degree programmes in science and engineering due to various factors. These include socio-economic factors, a poor foundation in mathematics, lack of stimulation and an interest in science in primary school, exposure to inadequate teaching and learning practices as well as the scarcity of subject-specific educators in mathematics and physical science in the General Education and Training (GET) and Further and Education (FET) phases at school.

One of these successful learners is Arshad Chengadu, a former learner of Morningside High School, who obtained 96% for physics last year and who is currently a first-year student studying towards a degree in mechatronics at Nelson Mandela University.

“The programme covers broad topics; not only physics and mathematics. It has taught me the importance of teamwork and has assisted me in choosing the course I’m currently following.

“Overall my marks have remained constant. This would not have been possible without the programme’s unique teaching methods to assist learners in understanding instead of memorising.”

Another former STEM IN ACTION participant is Nomalungisa Norawana who works in the transmission department at Vodacom in Limpopo.

She attended Khwezi Lomso Comprehensive School and was part of the programme from Grade 10 to matric.

“The programme assisted me in understanding science better and I was able to assist others from my school.

“My marks continued to improve each term. My final mark for science in matric was 82% and 87% for maths.”