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|SAASTA Highlights Report|
|SAASTA takes science to Beijing|
|Natural Science Olympiad|
|Community media pilot project|
|Crystallography kits for schools|
|PUB celebrates 10 years of biotech|
|Reaching visually impaired learners|
|School debate finals|
|Science communication workshops|
|KAT-7 seen as design highlight|
|Meet Nithaya Chetty|
|Eskom Expo 2014|
|SKA SA exhibits at BRICS EXPO|
|Algoa Bay Hope Spot launched|
|Inspiring environmental scientists|
|In the news|
|It's a fact!|
KZN Museum Service reaches out to visually impaired learners
The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Museum Service of the Department of Arts and Culture was one of the grant holders of National Science Week (NSW) 2014.
Seven Pietermaritzburg schools were selected for the NSW programme – Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind, and the Haythorne, Sukuma, Willowfontein, Ikusaselihle, Laduma and Kharina secondary schools.
Professional staff members of the KZN Museum Service visited these schools and addressed learners on the various careers available in the museum sector. Brochures and posters were distributed during school visits and learners were given the opportunity to view and interact with exhibits and artifacts of the mobile museum bus. In addition, selected learners from these schools were transported to Comrades House Museum for a formal lecture on new developments in science, such as nanotechnology and indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).
The provincial library service also came on board to distribute posters, pamphlets and brochures and display exhibitions across libraries in the province.
Disseminating information to the visually impaired
The highlight of the project was disseminating information about science, technology and IKS to the visually impaired members of the community. Planning started early in 2014 when representatives of KZN Museum Service met with Mrs Val Hair, Branch Administrator of the Association for the Physically Challenged (APC) in Pietermaritzburg. Mrs Hair shared APC's database of organisations that care for people with disabilities in the province with the organisers.
Part of the preparations for NSW involved liaising with Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind to invite their learners to be part of a two-day outreach programme. A document outlining the theme and subtheme of NSW 2014, as well as various careers in the Natural and Cultural Heritage sector, was compiled by KZN Museum Service and sent to BlindSA for transcription into Braille.
Special Braille plates
BlindSA presented the text in the form of aluminium Braille plates to allow for regular use by the target group. An aluminium Braille plate was made for each of the artifacts in the mobile museum bus with information for the learners. These were paid for by funding received from NSW 2014.
On 4 August 2014, Mr Mark Sole, Acting Senior Manager of KZN Museum Service and his staff visited Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind in Mountain Rise, Pietermaritzburg. The learners were already in the school hall when the KZN Museum Service staff members arrived. Ms A. Pillay announced the arrival of the guests and asked the learners to sing the national anthem. Mr Sole introduced his staff members and outlined the purpose of the visit.
Mr Wonder Xulu and Mrs Nelly Thwala, both Museum Liaison Officers, told learners about the careers available in science, technology, arts and culture. The learners, especially the intermediate and senior phase groups, interacted with the presenters and asked several questions.
Interacting with cultural artifacts
This was followed by a hands-on session during which the learners were thrilled to interact with cultural artifacts from the mobile museum and read more about each artifact on the accompanying Braille plate. They were intrigued to experience the rigid and firm aluminium Braille plates (as opposed to the paper Braille pages they are accustomed to), which enabled them to feel their way through the information with ease. After this invigorating experience all the learners received snack packs.
The learners were subdivided into two groups. Learners in the foundation phase celebrated NSW on 4 August, while those in the intermediate and senior phases celebrated NSW on 5 August 2014.
As far as people with disabilities are concerned, KZN Museum Service reached out to 75 foundation phase learners, 44 intermediate phase learners and 12 senior phase learners. In total, 131 learners from Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind were reached.
Additional sets of Braille plates were distributed to selected public libraries to form part of their temporary NSW exhibition stands. More than 11 libraries participated in mounting temporary displays. The librarians reported that the inclusion of Braille plates in the exhibition served to raise awareness of visually impaired members of communities and the challenges they face.
By Tebogo Mohlakane-Mafereka – Assistant Manager: KZN Museum Service, KZN Department of Arts and Culture