Coega’s Mobile Science Labs support the dreams of less advantaged scholars

OCTOBER 2, 2015

A former Molly Blackburn High School matriculant, now in his third year of medical studies in Cuba, said his encouraging grandmother, teachers and the support of the Coega Development Corporation (CDC)’s Mobile Science Laboratory initiative helped him turn his dreams of becoming a neurologist into reality.

Lubabalo Jonas, who was raised by his grandmother in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, is a third year student at the Escuelo Latinona Americana de Medicina (ELAM) – an international medical school – in Cuba. Speaking at his old school while on a visit home recently, he attributed some of his success to the unwavering support he received from the CDC Mobile Science Laboratory initiative, his teachers and family.

“My grandmother always encouraged me and my five siblings to follow our dreams, and said that education and hard work are the key factors that propel one to greatness. Resources are limited in the traditionally black schools, but CDC’s Mobile Science Labs afforded us a chance to put into practise the theoretical work we learnt in class,” said Jonas.

CDC’s Maths and Science project manager Mpumezo Ndabeni said he had seen a significant increase in students using the services of the Mobile Science Lab since its introduction in 2010, and thereafter pursuing studies in the much needed science, technology, environment and maths (STEM) industries. Approximately 5000 learners per year are assisted by the Mobile Labs, which are based in Uitenhage, Mdantsane, Alice, Fort Beaufort and Mthatha.

During the 2014/15 financial year the CDC spent R1.1-million on the programme.

“The purpose of the initiative is to supplement Physical Science studies with practical work since most of the historically disadvantaged schools lack the resources to attend to this important learning component. We believe that mobile science laboratories can close that gap through the use of modern technological equipment. The CDC labs not only provide material resources but also laboratory managers who provide hands-on assistance,” said Thandi Rayi, CDC CSI Manager.

Jonas, who hopes to be an astute neurologist like American Dr Ben Carson, said the language barrier had been a challenge when he first arrived in Cuba, as all the modules are taught in Spanish. However, after attending a three-month language course he and the other South African students were able to translate the Spanish literature.  The Cuba project is a collaboration between the two countries and is funded by the Eastern Cape Department of Heath with the aim of boosting the number of medical practitioners in the province.

Ndabeni remembered Jonas as hardworking and “always determined to achieve the best results in class”.

“I am happy that he has come this far with his studies,” Ndabeni said.

CDC’s Mobile Science Lab facilitator William Bell also recalled how focused and diligent Jonas had been while at school and said he had been one of the best learners he had tutored.

“More than half of the scholars attending the Mobile Labs programme continue with their studies in the fields of maths and science,” said Bell. “The Cuba project is also a great opportunity for aspiring doctors, as some come from underprivileged backgrounds and are prevented from continuing with their studies due to financial difficulties.”

Image: GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: Lubabalo Jonas (centre) visited his old high school, Molly Blackburn, in Uitenhage before heading back to Cuba to continue with his third year medical studies. He was joined by CDC maths and science mobile facilitator William Bell (left) and Mpumezo Ndabeni, maths and science project manager, on his visit home.