Corporate Social Investment

Science lab is a changemaker

A science laboratory in an underresourced school in rural Mpumalanga is making all the difference to the students and their teachers, thanks to the IDC's corporate social investment unit and several driven individuals.

August 16, 2012

Grade 12 learner Mickey Sibuyi conducts an experiment in the new labGrade 12 learner Mickey Sibuyi conducts an experiment in the new lab

It's 2.15 pm and students pour out the gates of Makhosana Manzini Secondary School; some board taxis home while others linger, chatting. A few admire a new sign by the entrance bearing the school's vision, mission and values. Written succinctly beneath is the motto: "No Pain, No Gain".

Located in the rural area of Bushbuckridge, Calcutta, Makhosana Manzini Secondary School is one of four Mpumalanga schools that have been "adopted" by the IDC's corporate social investment (CSI) unit. Its Adopt A School programme prioritises education and supports initiatives that are dedicated to the improvement of the learning and teaching of maths, science and technology subjects at secondary school level.

The unit's emphasis leans towards rural areas, with a particular focus on education. The unit works closely with provincial education departments and recently completed a fully equipped science laboratory at Makhosana Manzini Secondary, where learners will be able to conduct science experiments.

The lab stands out from the other blocks at the school, a red brick building with its new corrugated iron roof reflecting the rays of the afternoon sun. It has been named Bonginkosi Mnisi Science Lab, after a former learner who achieved 100 percent in science and maths in his matric results in 2010, and who is now studying towards a Bachelor of Science degree in astrophysics at the University of Cape Town.

By the door, a plaque reads: "Bonginkosi Mnisi Science Laboratory was donated in 2012 by the Industrial Development Corporation". It was unveiled by Mpumalanga's MEC for education, Reginah Mhaule; the IDC's divisional executive for marketing and corporate affairs, Neo Mokhesi; and Mnisi on 20 July 2012.

School principal Martin Nkuna, a humble man who seems to get along with all his learners and teachers, is "elated" that the school finally has a fully equipped laboratory. "We are very, very excited and delighted about the construction of the new laboratory. It will assist a lot, especially in teaching of science to make it more practical. Our teachers in the number of years that I have been in the school have been struggling to practicalise the teaching of science in the school."

The new lab will ensure that whatever is taught is also put into practice, according to Nkuna, who says that learners will benefit because they will be able to conduct practical experiments, which will assist them "to learn by seeing [rather] than to learn by hearing".

Established in 1994 as a satellite school for ML Nkuna Secondary School, Makhosana Manzini has grown. Originally, it catered only for learners in grades 8 and 9, using 16 classrooms. It now offers classes for grades 10, 11 and 12 and teaches a wider range of subjects.

Nkuna was appointed principal in 1995 – "managing the school from under a tree" and using the boot of his car as a storage office. "As time went on we got extra blocks and we now have 24 classrooms," he says.

Despite its good results in 2010, without a lab the school struggled to teach science subjects. Then the IDC came along – a move that would prove to be a huge blessing for the school. In 2011, Tebogo Molefe, the senior manager of the CSI unit, visited the school and was "touched by the infrastructure challenges".

This is when the idea to build a lab for the school was hatched, Nkuna explains. Besides the principal, two science teachers are ecstatic about the new lab: Evans Shumba and Tom Mogase say it will make the teaching of science subjects much easier and more exciting.

"The IDC has built us one of the best labs in the area. Learners will now be able to smell chemicals and see test tubes."

The lab can accommodate 80 learners at any given time and is a "huge asset" to the school, adds Mogase. "We have all the equipment that we need – oscilloscopes, solutions, chemicals, you name it. We are now in a position to say we are well-resourced."

But there is one thing that will complete the picture and make it perfect – internet connectivity, he points out.

Despite the abject poverty of their surrounds, learners at Makhosana Manzini can be mistaken for learners at some of the top school in urban areas. Most are smartly dressed in their sky-blue shirts, grey trousers and navy jerseys. Mickey Sibuyi is in Grade 12 and is one of the top science students at the school. He is inspired by Mnisi's matric performance and wants to emulate him – or even do better.

"What Bonginkosi did was beyond what most of us could imagine. But thanks to him, we now have a new lab and we hope to follow in his footsteps," he explains, looking at the pictures of Mnisi on one side of the lab.

Another top science student is Khulisiwe Chawana, who wants to study chemical engineering after matric. She says grasping science concepts was difficult before the lab was built and she used to get confused. "The new lab is such a great help and has made things a whole lot easier. To the IDC I can say you have made science more exciting for us."

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