Department of Science and Technology and BMW South Africa promote maths and science at Unizul Science Centre


Richards Bay – The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and automobile manufacturer BMW South Africa, have  collaborated in an initiative to further promote science and  technology in the country.

Department of Science and Technology

Committed to enhancing young people’s access to science, maths,  engineering and technology, BMW South Africa and the DST have donated  a BMW 3 Series educational display car to the Unizul Science Centre in  Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal.

The handover of the third BMW 3 Series educational display car took  place at a ceremony at the Unizul Science Centre on Wednesday, 4  September, where the Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Adv  Michael Masutha, gave an address.

In his address the Deputy Minister pointed out that science centres  are defined as places that emphasise hands-on informal learning of  science and technology through interactive exhibits that encourage  visitors to experiment and explore science.

BMW South Africa has so far donated these educational display cars to  three science centres in the country that are aligned to and supported  by the DST, namely the Cape Town Science Centre (Western Cape) and  Vuwani Science Centre (Limpopo). The Unizul is the third to receive  this educational car. The Mafikeng Science Centre in the North West  and the Osizweni Discovery Centre in Mpumalanga are next in line.

Deputy Minister Masutha said youth development was not only important  to the Department, but also to the country as a whole.

“The Department of Science and Technology recognises the constructive  role of science centres in advancing science, engineering and  technology human capital development objectives.  In this regard, you  may be aware that the Department has identified science centres as  infrastructure through which to deliver our Youth into Science  Strategy.  This strategy is part of the broader initiative to build  and transform the country’s science and technology human capital,”   said the Deputy Minister.

Advocate Masutha acknowledged the collaboration between BMW South  Africa and government, encouraging more private companies to support  the country’s network of science centres.

He told attending learners that the vehicle boasted various  technologies, which were all inspired by science, research and  innovation. Thus the vehicle should inspire them with hope and energy  to excel in their studies, to become innovators of note in future.

The BMW 3 Series educational display cars were built in the  pre-production stage of the new BMW3 Series at Plant Rosslyn, Pretoria  in early 2012. As pre-production vehicles, they are not allowed to be  registered and would have been scrapped. However BMW have put these  assets to better use.

“In addition to identifying homes for these educational cars, BMW  South Africa as a highly innovative company, has played a meaningful  role in the development of maths and science competency in  under-privileged schools for the past 20 years,” said Esther Langa,  Manager: Corporate Affairs for BMW South Africa.

“Through our Maths, Science and Technology Excellence (MST) Project  we have been able to deploy mobile laboratories, known as BMW Centres  of Excellence, to 42 participating schools that serve historically  disadvantaged communities. As a result, more than 40 000 learners and  148 teachers are direct beneficiaries of this Project, which delivers  maths and science pass rates around 20% higher than the national  average,” said Langa.

“The donation of the BMW 3 Series educational cars was a natural  extension to our commitment in this space in terms of reducing the  knowledge gap in the critical areas of maths, science and technology,”   says Langa. “Automobile technology makes maths and science  tangible and competency in these subjects aspirational.”

Director of the centre, Derek Fish said the BMW 3 series would join  with an already existing BMW display that had proven to be a prominent  and interactive exhibit over the years and this new addition would be  highly welcomed by the learners that visit the centre.

“This is a something that is certainly relatable to the rural  students that visit our centre, more so than a plane or space rocket  may be. It is an exhibit that allows all areas of science that the  students encounter within the curriculum to be explored,” said Fish.

The Unizul Science Centre is one of the oldest and biggest science  centres in the country.  It was established in 1982 at University of  Zululand’s Physics Department where it was initially housed in an old  laboratory on the top floor of the Zoology Building. Through funding  from both the DST and local industries, the facility now boasts 2 600  square metres, with a dedicated exhibit area of 1 600 square metres, a  state of the art auditorium, a smaller theatre, a lab and two classrooms.