Mathapelo Maile does not think small – the tenacious 17 year old is studying towards a BSc in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Witwatersrand.
Mathapelo’s ambition was sparked at Lodirile Secondary School in Rietvallei, a township on the outskirts of Krugersdorp. She joined a mathematics and science tutoring programme run by the Adopt-a-School Foundation and fell in love with science. Her excellent matric results earned her a bursary from the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET), a sister organisation of the Foundation.
Her goal is to develop aircraft that are less harmful to the environment. She is one of hundreds of young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds who are striving to change the world through science and technology.
“There is a wealth of untapped potential in science and mathematics in our schools. We simply need to identify and support these young people to realise their full potential,” said Banyana Mohajane, head of skills and social development at the Adopt-a-School Foundation.
Producing graduates in science and mathematics does more than uplift young people, it is critical for the development of South Africa’s economy. There is a persistent shortage of skills in all the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in South Africa. Thousands of posts are currently filled by skilled migrants who often send their earnings back to their home countries.
With South Africa’s unemployment rate at a 13-year high of 27 per cent, it is vital that the next generation obtains the skills required to succeed in the 21st century economy. By 2020, as many as 80 per cent of the jobs created will require STEM education. This makes improving education in science and maths absolutely imperative for a prosperous nation.
“We find that the most effective way to get learners excited about science is to give them an opportunity to take part in experimental learning,” said Banyana. “What a child touches and sees, he will never forget.”
This kind of experimental learning requires the proper facilities, which is why the Foundation and its partner organisation, the Kagiso Shanduka Trust (KST), have built 57 science laboratories at schools that are unable to afford them. Adopt-a-School has also supported and developed more than 2 000 science and maths educators, and helped to establish maths and science clubs at hundreds of schools.
The Adopt-a-School Foundation is raising money to build a fully resourced, state-of-the-art science laboratory at Modilati Secondary School in Hammanskraal, Gauteng. This project will also include intensive and holistic educator development in curriculum management, teaching methodologies, experimental teaching and laboratory management.
“If you want to make a difference in the lives of the country’s youth, please visit our donation page at https://www.givengain.com/cc/buildasciencelab/ and contribute whatever you can,” said Banyana.
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