Practical physics training produces amazing results in South Sudan

30 August 2012

In May 2012 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Institute of Physics, the South Sudan Ministry of Education and the Juba Diocese with a view to training Physics teachers in practical skills and establishing a resource centre where Physics apparatus is constructed to support the training and for distribution to schools.

Thanks to the amazing support of many individuals, David Richardson of Clifton College, IOP for Africa, the Salisbury Diocese, LabAid, Rapid Electronics, Mission Aviation Fellowship and Avient Aero, the team was able to take over 400kg of equipment out to South Sudan this summer.

In the first week we trained 17 teachers from five out of the ten states of this vast country, instructing them to use apparatus in their Physics teaching. Our teaching included sessions on Newton’s Laws, Energy, Electric Circuits, Optics & Vibrations and Undertaking Investigations.  At the end of the week each teacher was able to take a kit bag of apparatus back to their school.

Each day we observed the teachers undertaking practical Physics lessons with groups of students from the Juba Diocesan Model Secondary School Nelson (JDMSS). Nelson wrote in his evaluation, ‘These practical ideas will make our students love the subject very much’. Noel commented, ‘I am particularly happy because I have acquired enough teaching skills to make Physics a reality’. Matthias, a science teacher for 25 years stated, ‘It is the first time in my life I have used apparatus. I would like to encourage this type of training’. Michael summed up everyone’s feelings, ‘It will help me teach my students about Physics practically rather than theoretically’. Archangelo realised, ‘I have learnt to teach students in less time with maximum understanding by linking the practical and theoretical simultaneously’.

A key aspect of our time in Juba during the second week was to train two school leavers as science technicians to work at JDMSS and establish a resource centre where apparatus is constructed. Cleopas and Noel, our technicians, also attended the earlier teacher training. Cleopas worked with the parallel Biology/Chemistry team, while Noel was trained as a Physics technician, able to construct apparatus using the tools we had imported in a 180kg crate.

Edward teaching students kinetic theory with a kit from Clifton College

In week three we travelled 100 miles southwest to Yei on a six hour bumpy journey to appraise the impact of our training last year. Martin, an outstanding Physics teacher from last year’s training, works at Kinji Secondary, a very poor school in Yei. We invited other Physics teachers in the area to a day’s Physics training and used some of the apparatus Martin received last year, which he stores in a suitcase for security and brings to school each day on his motor-bike!

By chance we met Agoyi, Dean of Students and Head of Science at Yei Teacher Training College, whose aim is to raise the scientific literacy of primary teachers. To cut a long story short, Martin and Agoyi have now set up a ‘Stimulating Physics Network’ that will meet regularly in the lab at the college , bring local science teachers together to share  practical ideas for teaching Physics. Amazing!

Until the next time. Gerry Blake (IOP for Africa, South Sudan Coordinator)