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Sci-tech centre to enhance ECape's innovation prospects

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The newly-unveiled science centre in the Eastern Cape’s Cofimvaba will support the teaching of maths, science and tech in local schools.

Additionally, it will act as a teacher development centre to better equip maths and science educators, according to the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

This week, DSI handed over the high-tech, state-of-the-art science centre, which is named after struggle stalwart Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu, to the community of Cofimvaba.

The Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu Science Centre serves as an educational facility that offers science awareness activities and exhibits on various themes, including space science and astronomy, says the DSI.

It will enable people of Cofimvaba and the surrounding towns to experiment and engage with science and technology, the department adds.

“The centre will also be an integral part of the infrastructure for science communication,” notes higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande. “The centre will also afford the local communities opportunities to explore science and research in order to better their lives by developing new knowledge and innovation, which can improve their livelihoods.”

According to Nzimande, the DSI provided indoor and outdoor science exhibits to enable the science promotion programme to run smoothly.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Department of Education provided office furniture and equipment for running the maths, science and technology education support programme. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) provided 35 laptops for advancing the objectives of all programmes at the centre, he reveals.

Overseen and built by DSI entity, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the centre is designed and constructed as an environmentally-friendly building.

It features an off-grid power supply comprising of four renewable energy sources – photovoltaic panels, small-scale wind turbine, hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. Energy from power utility Eskom will be used as backup.

Furthermore, the building relies on a hybrid water supply to reduce its dependence on the grid by harvesting rainwater and recycling grey water to be used in the bathrooms.

Dr Phil Mjwara, director-general at the DSI, explained the centre is a collaboration between the DSI, DBE, Eastern Cape Department of Education, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, and the CSIR.

According to Mjwara, the department worked closely with the DBE to ensure the centre is relevant to the overall education policy. “This partnership has helped to design and build a science centre which has three objectives.

“These include making sure the young people in this rural area can benefit from what the centre offers through exhibits, and encourage them to follow careers in maths and science.Secondly, the centre becomes an institution that can also provide information and dispel mysteries about what science is all about, and we hope it will have that outreach to the community around the area.

“The science centre will not only benefit the schools around Cofimvaba, but around the district. Initially, we will be able to connect around 20 schools, but the vision is to extend so that the schools that cannot physically come to the centre benefit through connectivity and IT technologies of today.

“Thirdly, the centre will provide a platform for teacher-training across certain districts and regions of the province.”

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