South Africa’s next generation of scientists are getting a head start with the donation of science laboratories from SANParks. By Nell Hofmeyr

Science pupils at eight South African schools can now put theory into practice for the first time ever, thanks to the donation of new science laboratories from SANParks.

Students unpacking their science kits.

The official handover of the labs took place on 9 September at Swellendam Secondary, one of the beneficiary schools, as part of the SA National Parks Week launch celebrations.

The labs are a project of the SANParks Social Legacy Programme, an initiative that works to uplift the communities living adjacent to national parks by providing much-needed infrastructure and support.

SANParks representatives hand over a plaque to a student of Swellendam Secondary.

The next generation of pioneers

For SANParks the goal is to grow future conservationists and researchers. “By creating the right environment to develop the skill sets of our young people in science and mathematics, we as government are providing the necessary enabling tools our schools so desperately need. In these communities, we hope to produce the next generation of pioneers in the scientific field,” said SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni, in his keynote address.

Eight high schools in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape received new or refurbished labs, each fully equipped with a smart board, digital projector and science kits donated by Total South Africa, a SANParks partner.

Representatives from each of the beneficiary schools receive their plaques.

The main goal of the project is to cultivate a culture of science among learners in previously disadvantaged communities, explained Yolanda Assy, programme manager of the Social Legacy Programme.

“We find that if children don’t have facilities in schools, they are not ever going to develop this passion for science, so we’re trying to facilitate that,” she said.

New opportunities

Donning their white lab coats for the occasion, pupils at Swellendam Secondary expressed delight over the learning opportunities presented by their newly refurbished lab.

Students are all smiles with their new kits.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy and excitement,” said Rocyla Conrad, a senior pupil. “I can’t wait to work and get physical with things because we didn’t have that opportunity before. Now we have it and we’re all so grateful. I think the lab will make a big difference. It’s very exciting!”

The SANParks Social Legacy Programme uses 1% of tourism revenue to fund their projects, proving that tourism in national parks is a critical success factor in uplifting local communities.

Students of Swellendam Secondary pose in their new lab coats with SANParks officials and invited guests.

Since 2013, SANParks has completed 25 projects, including the establishment of computer labs, a mobile library, a kitchen facility, an administration block and science facilities.