KZN Maths & Science academy aims to groom SA’s future innovators

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A new state of the art math and science academy in KwaZulu-Natal says it wants to groom South Africa’s future scientists and innovators.

The R255 million Anton Lembede Mathematics, Sciences and Technology Academy in La Mercy north of Durban has taken in its first group of Grade 8 learners and will eventually teach 600 Grades 8 to 12 students.

Educators here have also been mandated to include learners from rural areas.

50% of learners at this academy are from some of the KZN’s most impoverished communities -learners with the academic potential but lacking the finances to get a better education.

In a bid to bridge this gap, half of all the learners have been accepted on a bursary that includes on-site boarding facilities.

KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, says the other 50% of the learners will pay fees.

“There will be a portion of 50% that will be fee-paying and we are doing this because there are learners who really are of extraordinary bright minds from deep rural areas, from impoverished families who cannot afford the quality of education we are going to be providing. We are therefore going to bring on board those learners so they also get to be exposed to this kind of education we are providing.”

Paperless school

It’s also been called a paperless school, using technology like digital whiteboards and laptops for every learner. The brand new science lab is a wonderful site, even complete with a 3D printer.

Science teacher Nkosinathi Shumba says it is exciting to teach budding, young scientists in a high tech laboratory.

“It’s wonderful. These learners are well motivated to address the current issues. The issue of the pandemic has to be science-based. Whatever information is produced it must be scientifically based. Not only are we going to be addressing the current issues to upgrade society. These learners they have zeal, they are actually geared to actually develop and come up with the innovative ways of addressing the current issues the country is facing at large.”

Learners excited

Nervous Grade 8 learners Anathi Ndima and Sipesihle Zungu shared their experience of their first day at their new school.

“I was very nervous but excited at the same time because I was going to be learning new things in a school of leadership and innovation. I’m interested in maths and science and I would like to become a scientist when I grow up,” Ndima says.

“I enjoy science, accounting and mathematics. When I grow up, I’m not sure what I want to be, but something that will make me a lot of money,” Zungu says.

Developing inquisitive minds

The idea for this style of learning with a focus on developing inquisitive and science forward minds was developed by former Provincial Education MEC and now Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu.

He emphasises the critical role that innovation generation should play in South Africa.

“We as a continent are as small as a pen, that is our size in terms of innovation in other words we innovate very little but we are big geographically. And there is no country that can ever develop even economically, or otherwise, as a country, if its innovation capacity is very low or non-existent and therefore, your country doesn’t develop.”

Applications for fee-paying students will set parents back about R41 000 a year. This includes board and lodge and uniforms.