Protecting hands

An educational charity aims to light up the life of Black schoolchildren by imparting them technical knowledge

Published: Tuesday 31 October 1995

-- (Credit: AP / PTI)PROGRAMME for Technological Careers (Protec), a South African educational charity is hellbent on nullifying the myth created by the erstwhile apartheid regime: Blacks can't do science. It is now determined to rekindle Black children's enthusiasm for technology by introducing special school lessons. For the first time, technology is brought into dilapidated school classrooms, till recently branded as "only-Blacks".

There is a high level of technological illiteracy among South Africa's Black population. In a society that is 85 per cent black, the science and technology workforce is 80 per cent white. Black children are still uncomfortable with subjects like maths and science, kept effectively out of their reach for decades. Only about 16 per cent of the students take up these subjects in their schoolleaving exams. Now Protec is all set to bring in change. With the Mandela government's support, it has introduced a technology course in 40 schools in Eastern Transvaal. Protec workers organise special 'Saturday schools' during holidays, offering 'enrichment' classes in maths, science and English.

The students get involved with practical projects where they develop a product from conception through marketing and selling - anything from candle-making to building a small house. One group recently produced a new washing-up liquid under the guidance of a local soap manufacturer.

But the technology classes have to be squeezed into an already tight curriculum. And the Protec workers believe, if the students regularly run out of time and end up with not-5o-good results, it would be tough convincing them and their parents that technology is not beyond their ken. But Protec, hopeful of success, is already planning to take its study courses to 2 other states - Northern Transvaal and the North Western province.

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