As part of an initiative to promote the study of Chemistry among high school learners, the Discipline of Chemistry on the Pietermaritzburg campus hosted 74 young pupils and their teachers.
The youngsters, from Msinga’s Mawele High School, accompanied by their science teachers, took part in an introduction to chemistry course which included laboratory work and a “magic” show.
The visit, organised by Dr Vineet Jeena and colleagues, was one of many supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).
‘The School of Chemistry and Physics (SCP) at UKZN and the RSC have a common vision of connecting with our community and inviting the next generation to experience and enjoy the beauty of chemistry - regardless of their financial background,’ said Jeena.
‘As UKZN Chemistry academics we have a responsibility to promote the science within our province. To achieve this, we aim to host all schools from the Msunduzi region for departmental visits. Through a generous donation from the RSC, we have initiated this endeavour with a visit from Mawele students. We hope to make this a biannual event and, in the coming years, invite as many learners as possible.’
A teacher at Mawele High, Mr Justin Hammond, is a UKZN graduate and has been at the school since 2007. Showing dedication to his students, he and other teachers run an intense, full-day programme for their matric students which has resulted in a 100% matric pass rate. Some of its matriculants have gone on to study medicine in Cuba.
Learners at the school take part in a number of extracurricular activities from debating to participating in expos.
Despite challenges including large class sizes and few teaching resources, the school excels. Hammond’s hope was that visiting UKZN would help make theory practical, and motivate learners to persevere with their studies.
The visiting pupils were in Grades 10, 11 and 12. Triple science - Geography, Physical Sciences and Biology - is a popular subject choice at the quintile one school which is poorly equipped in laboratory resources.
It was the first time the youngsters had been in a laboratory where they worked under the guidance of Mrs Kristy-Lyn Barry and postgraduate demonstrators.
Staff complimented the scholars on their capability and knowledge, noting that they quickly picked up the techniques of doing experiments.
After lunch provided by the SCP, learners were treated to a “magic” show organised by Dr Desigan Reddy, which featured various visually appealing experiments, including crushing cans using iced water and making “elephant toothpaste”. The show ended with a bang as demonstrators lit hydrogen balloons to the delight of the group.
UKZN, which will continue to interact with the school, has been able to donate laboratory supplies as part of outreach efforts in promoting Chemistry.