The Science Learning Centre for Africa (SLCA), is an outreach programme of the School of Science and Mathematics Education (SSME). It is physically located in the Goldfields Resource Centre on the West Campus of the University of the Western Cape. It services the outreach functions of the SSME within the Faculty of Education of the University of the Western Cape.

The SLCA projects are highly commendable for various reasons:
Firstly, the projects have been able to make the centre, and simultaneously the SSME visible and by association, raise the visibility of the Faculty of Education and the University of the Western Cape to a national level with regard to science education.

The centre has been able to motivate learners about the possibilities of success in science careers through projects geared at popularising science. The association of the centre with the construction of 84 laboratories in three provinces in the country, is a unique contribution of a science learning centre in the education system of our country. This will create opportunities for other like- minded organisations to emulate this and consequently contribute to the betterment of science education in our country.  

The centre is contributing to amplify the impact of the SSME in the faculty of education 
 in so far as it is able to make alliances with the private sector and education 
departments in various provinces like the Eastern and the Northern Cape. 

There is a mathematics education project LEDIMTALI, in SSME doing good work in the Western Cape.

Objectives

The centre aims to achieve its objectives by engaging in science and projects to support teachers in the performance of their teaching duties and to assist learning through demystifying and popularising school science. It is hoped that this would be achieved through:
  • In-service teacher professional development in science.
  • The building of science learning centres in needy schools.
  • The establishment of science clubs and the running of science competitions.
  • Motivation of female high school learners through mathematics and science conventions.
  • Teacher qualification upgrading in science education.
  • Science curriculum and materials development.
  • Research on issues pertaining to science teaching and learning.

Key Activities

In-service Teacher Professional Development 

Perhaps the foremost academic endeavour of the UWC- Science Learning Centre for Africa, is the in-service teacher professional development project for Primary and High school teachers. This is targeted at Physical, Chemical, Natural and Life Science teachers. Teacher professional development includes enhancing and sharpening pedagogical content knowledge and upgrading of subject content knowledge of teachers. Teaching development occurs in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape Provinces of South Africa.  This objective has resulted in teachers upgrading their qualifications and completing: 
  • Advanced Certificate in Education, 
  • Advanced Diploma in Education, 
  • Bachelor of Education Honours in Science Education and 
  • Master’s and Doctoral Degree in Science Education. 

Science Learning Centres

One of the means of improvement in science teaching and learning has been attempted through the building of science learning centres in schools.  The idea is that with the provision of these centres, each science teacher is provided with the opportunity to make science practical and visible. It also gives learners the opportunity to interact with data, to explore, experiment and make scientific decisions on the basis of experimental outcomes which are visible to the naked eye. In this way scientific knowledge is demystified and made more relevant and tangible. A total of 84 such centres have been built to completion in the three provinces mentioned above. These centres are constructed in collaboration with the provincial education departments in which the receiving schools are located and receive private funding from organisations. The other two thirds come from private funders and the relevant education department.  More of these centres are being planned for the Western Cape and the Northern Cape.

Science Clubs

The centre further endeavours to popularise science through the establishment of science clubs in schools in which science learning centres have been constructed and opened. Hence the science learning centres have become hubs of science activity.

Science club competitions derive from the science learning centres, as a way of popularising science. These competitions are held annually and rotate in regions where school learning centres are located. 

Women in Mathematics Convention (WIM)

An important and regular activity the centre engages in as part of its science popularisation campaign, is the Women in Mathematics and Science Convention which is held as part of Women’s Month in August of every year. The 9th of August is a public holiday in South Africa to commemorate the struggles of South African women against apartheid repression and the oppression of black women. The university is an enthusiastic participant in these national events. About 200 girls doing science and mathematics in schools from low socio-economic backgrounds are invited annually in August to attend this convention. The idea of the convention is to have prominent and successful female scientists and mathematicians who come from the same socio-economic background as the students to address the students about mathematics and science professions. The speakers discuss the challenges of their professions and how they have overcome adversity to be where they are at present.

Outreach and Professional Teacher Development

As part of its mandate the SLCA has been involved in doing outreach training for science teachers, mostly outside of the Western Cape, in particular, the Eastern and Northern Cape Provinces. In this teacher development project in-service, teachers have been registered to do and complete academic programs and short courses. Students have graduated in the Advanced Certificate in Education, BEd (Honours), ADE and Master’s in Science Education.