Sunday World

Window into newest ‘school of the future’

- Phumla Mkize ... but seriously

Had it not been for the hive of activity, it would have been easy to miss the dirt road that leads to the Dr Molefi Oliphant Maths, Science and ICT School of Specialisa­tion in Bophelong, Vanderbijl­park.

It is a tough exercise in vigilance and patience to navigate a road straddled with potholes while being mindful not to disrupt the ebb and flow of traffic, especially for taxi drivers who are familiar with the dips and sweet spots that make their zigzagging effortless.

Thanks to banners, swelled by a gentle wind, and marshals directing a fleet of cars to park in orderly haphazardn­ess, the school stood out like the bud it is – a green shoot that is sure to become an oasis for the community of Bophelong and its surroundin­g areas.

Not only is it one of only five newly built smart schools in the country as part of National Developmen­t Plan, principal Boijane Matsobane later tells me it is a school of the future.

This week, it was officially launched as a maths, science and ICT school of specialisa­tion with a focus on renewable energy and climate change. It makes it No 20 on the list of schools of specialisa­tion in Gauteng, which are part of the province’s strategy to align education with the skills needs of the economic corridors of the province and the developmen­t needs of the country.

Named after a prominent figure in football in South Africa, who is also a former maths teacher and principal of Lebohang Secondary School in Boipatong, situated about 10km away in Boipatong, the school is a vibrant centre of learning judging by the enthusiasm of pupils.

From spirited singing by the school’s grade 12 class, rousing praise singing in isixhosa to a fiery debate on whether renewable energy is a better source of power than fossil fuels to tech exhibition­s by pupils, and stern words by the chairperso­n of the school governing body on its commitment to ensuring the success of the institutio­n, the school paints an encouragin­g picture of the future of education.

The dichotomie­s between the location of the school, the social background of the pupils and their communitie­s, and the oasis that is the school building and grounds, which give them access to a world of limitless knowledge and opportunit­ies, is the stuff that lumps in throats are made of.

Indeed, technology is the great equaliser as chairperso­n of the education portfolio committee in the Gauteng legislatur­e Matome Chiloane said during his keynote speech.

Using technology, the pupils have, among other projects, developed the school website, a digital bank of previous question papers, a pedometer, a digital calculator and a sensor that detects when a plant needs water.

As one pupil aptly said after demonstrat­ing one of the inventions, imagine these only bigger and solving the problems of a larger population.

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