A series of lectures for teachers in South Africa

29 September 2014

The IOP and the Potter Foundation have been running a pilot programme in Gauteng Province, as part of the Institute’s IOP for Africa programme, which is run in conjunction with the South African Institute of Physics and the University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus (UJ).


The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) asked them to develop a series of lectures for teachers covering work, energy and power as well as electricity and circuits. David Wolfe, IOP for Africa volunteer co-ordinator for South Africa, and South African co-ordinator, Case Rijsdijk, prepared lecture and demonstration material for three days of lectures on these topics, using the University of Colorado PhET software.

Wolfe said: “For three days from 30 June we had more than 180 teachers taking part in lectures for five to six hours per day. I have seldom worked with more enthusiastic or grateful students. It was exhausting but a true joy.”

South Africa has a joint physical science course for all secondary students consisting of half physics and half chemistry. Wolfe said: “Most teachers have some chemistry training but little or no physics – they are, therefore, quite keen to learn more. What they want is greater understanding of physics principles rather than laboratory training.”


South Africa’s national Department of Basic Education, the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Department of Science and Technology have asked the IOP and its partners to spread the pilot programme throughout the entire country. Wolfe said: “We feel that it is necessary to test our efforts in Gauteng before doing so, as there is a history of overly ambitious projects.

“However, we are preparing a proposal for a five-year programme for the nation and asking for several hundred thousand pounds to fund it. This is a very exciting time, urged on by the building of the Square Kilometre Array over the next 10 years. This is the world’s largest radio telescope and 80% of this massive project is scheduled for South Africa. The need for well-trained scientists, engineers and technologists is obvious. We hope to be able to provide some of these.”

Another workshop on teacher training will be held in South Africa in July 2015. The focus for the workshop was agreed following a meeting on 27 August between colleagues from the UJ and the GDE, which covers Gauteng Province, including Soweto, Johannesburg and Pretoria.