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September 12, 2018

JICA and Saitama partner on Science promotion

Saitama, close to Tokyo, is one of 47 Japanese prefectures - locally known as provinces. Over the years, Saitama has become renowned for being proactive in the development space. JICA is merely one of its many partners, with a joint initiative on Science promotion in South Africa, currently in its third and final year.

JICA continues to prioritise Science, and since inception of its Volunteer Programme on local soil some 16 years ago, has sent many Japanese nationals as junior and senior volunteers to schools and Science centres across South Africa. In late July 2018, Saitama's Education Board sent three teachers to South Africa for a month-long stay to create an international flavour to South Africa's National Science Week. This annual event, hosted jointly by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), is run in all nine provinces simultaneously at multiple sites per province. This year's event, held in August, focused on deepening democracy through Science.

The trio was eager to share Japan's take on Science, so accompanied by DST and SAASTA officers, visited schools and Science centres in Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. Upon DST's recommendation, they also visited schools caring for learners with disabilities. To reduce set-up time for maximising discussions, they selected and conducted simple Science experiments.

This partnership has brought about educational and cultural exchange to expand learning beyond cultural boundaries. It has also started a conversation towards improving upon existing Science teaching.

Mr Takayoshi Shibusawa, Chemistry Teacher: "I observed South Africa's rural schools having fewer teachers, which I believe affects learners' academic performance. I think it would be effective if the South African Government could look into increasing the number of teachers in schools, and giving learners more focused individual attention in accordance with their learning needs, which may increase their motivation to learn, and in turn their learning ability."

Mr Tatsuro Nakamura, Biology Teacher: "I echo Mr Shibusawa's sentiments, and agree that smaller classes, perhaps 20 to 40 learners per class, would aid the theory learning process as learners would be receiving more attention from teachers."

Mr Tomoyuki Kobayashi, English Teacher: "Teaching in South Africa turned out to be a wonderful experience as learners are susceptible to learning by being friendly and motivated. Although there's a gap between the rich and the poor, I believe that these young people have potential and a great future ahead."

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