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UJ launches STEM education initiative for high schools

16th February 2024

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The University of Johannesburg (UJ), in partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), has launched a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiative that will bolster expertise among science educators and empower high school learners.

The initiative will employ a multifaceted strategy that includes teacher development workshops, and on-site school visits nationwide. It will start with chemistry and the UJ Department of Chemical Sciences, the university says.

The initiative's key role is to equip learners from historically disadvantaged backgrounds with essential practical experience, which is crucial for higher education success, says UJ Faculty of Science executive dean Professor Annah Moteetee.

“Prioritising mentorship and curriculum support across all levels is crucial. Our initiative focuses on laying the foundational skills necessary for pursuing STEM fields, fostering inclusivity and unlocking untapped potential,” she says.

“Supported by key stakeholders including industry, private partners and the DBE, UJ's efforts signify a strategic partnership poised to drive educational advancement nationwide,” Moteetee adds.

The Department of Chemical Sciences has additionally committed to address systemic challenges hindering students' university transition.

In acknowledging resource disparities, UJ aims to bridge the gap by providing access to essential laboratory facilities and tailored support mechanisms. This initiative amplifies and extends the reach of UJ’s Soweto Science Centre by catering to students and teachers in Gauteng, the university says.

Additionally, UJ has also developed plans to ensure the project's sustainability and long-term impact, highlights UJ Department of Chemical Sciences project manager and lecturer Dr Mathapelo Seopela.

“Our strategy involves expanding the project to guarantee its sustainability and enduring effects. In provinces where schools are identified, we will establish training centres tailored for teachers and subject specialists.

“We will also enlist unemployed postgraduate education graduates to augment school staff and ensure continuity, with learners advancing while teachers and subject specialists remain. Additionally, we aim to diversify the project's focus beyond chemistry to embrace all facets of STEM education, and facilitating its expansion to more schools and provinces,” she says.

The intention is to further develop the project to extend assistance to schools and learners beyond the realm of chemistry alone. The aim is to ensure that all aspects of STEM education receive the attention they deserve. This expansion will also facilitate the project's rollout to additional schools and provinces soon, Seopela explains.

“By championing innovative teaching methods and actively engaging with the community, UJ demonstrates its commitment to nation-building and societal empowerment,” Moteetee says.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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