Last Friday we had an early start (6:45am pickup from the hotel) for a journey north to Dundee for a meeting with another group of Science and Technology Subject Advisers. Having previously spoken with advisers covering grade 10-12 we were now going to talk with the advisers who cover grades 4 - 9.
We stopped at a service station on the way north and I was struck by the ATMs which seemed to rely on satellite communications, another example perhaps of the complexity of connections that back home I take for granted.
As we headed north the scenery changed from the hills of Pietermaritzburg to a much flatter environment. We pulled in on the way at a shop called the Aloes which stood all by itself and stocked an incredible range of local meats. Freezer units in the shop bearing legends such as "Bones" and "Half Carcases".
From here we carried on north through countryside that saw battles between British and Zulus in the past.
.. there were a few place names that I recognised en route to Dundee. Appropriately enough we passed near Newcastle and at one junction there was a sign ( which I was sadly too slow to get a photo of) which had Glen Coe to the left and Dundee to the right.
Finally we reached our destination
..and proceeded to have our meeting. We talked with the subject advisers about what they saw as the most significant challenges facing teachers in KwaZulu Natal Province's schools. We talked about the challenges of trying to do chemistry experiments when the school lacks any test tubes, or indeed chemicals, as well a myriad other topics. We also took them through the content on Teachers Try Science which received a positive reception so we will be back in Dundee in a couple of weeks to run a more detailed workshop with the subject advisers.
I find that sometimes I am asked a simple question that really makes me stop and think. This was one of those times. At the end of the meeting one of the participants simply asked me what a similar group of people would list as the inhibitors if I was to ask the question back at home. The sad truth is that I think the response would have been very similar in that it would have including the need for more resources. "If only we had .... then we could do ....". Listening to the idea of a science teacher running a practical session without access to even the most basic of equipment certainly puts any challenges we might face in a UK school into a rather different perspective.
Meeting over we headed down the main street in Dundee to find a place to grab some lunch
... and then headed back down south