“In January, News24 reported on the plight of Oval North Secondary School in Beacon Valley, which is located on the border between rival gangs.

Principal Na-aim Kassiem lamented the lack of a science lab, as it is a “focus school” for engineering and technology. The school will implement a new curriculum next year, where advanced mathematics and advanced physics will be compulsory.

Without a lab, pupils have had to “imagine” the outcomes of science experiments they read about in their textbooks. While the school tried to make up this shortfall by including extra classes via satellite with the help of university students, a science lab was necessary to help pupils get to grips with the complex subject matter.

“It opens a great learning opportunity for the school,” said a delighted Kassiem, who led a team of teachers and pupils to an almost 100% matric pass rate last year.

‘Initiative, resourcefulness and courage’

The pass rate was 95.1%, up from 86% in 2014, even though the pupils did not have the benefit of a science lab, a facility taken for granted in well-off schools.
The SA Muslim Charitable Trust (SAMCT) heard about the school’s plight and decided to sponsor the project.

MSED director Glen van Harte joining the principal and donors in cutting the ribbon to the new lab.
SAMCT trustee Faried Boltman said in a statement that it was sad that the school lacked the top-class facilities it needed.

“Regardless of the challenges it faces, this is a school which simply refuses to buckle and slip into the mire of mediocrity because of its situation and location. This is a school with the initiative, resourcefulness and courage to rise above its difficulties, introducing a range of science and maths programmes to improve its educational ability for the benefit of learners,” Boltman said.

News24 has previously reported how pupils at the school have had to dodge bullets as gangs in the area confront each other.

In March, the brother of a security guard tasked with patrolling the school was shot dead. His body was found in one of the school’s classrooms in the early hours of the morning.

The SAMCT said it donated R236 202 for the natural sciences/life sciences laboratory. Kassiem said Al Baraka Bank also donated R250 000 for the physics laboratory.
The Trust was created by Al Baraka Bank, Old Mutual and CII Holdings in 2008 to help disadvantaged communities.

“Just imagine what they – and the learners – could achieve with properly equipped science laboratory facilities… those make-do days are over,” Boltman said.

Kassiem said after the labs were opened on Monday, the pupils wasted no time. They filed into the laboratories that were fitted in two repurposed rooms, he said.
“It was extremely exciting for them. They gave thanks. Now we have a natural science laboratory, and a physics laboratory. They are absolutely brand new. Each one is a quarter of a million rand.”

The school intends keeping the laboratories open until 17:00 on school days to maximise the time available to the pupils, especially those who participate in Science Expos.
Kassiem said the area’s district director wants the laboratories to be made available to pupils from other schools in the area so they can benefit, and pupils will get a chance to exchange information.

[Source: Jenni Evans, News24]
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