Awards 1997 Lawrie Group Award for Social Progress

Lawrie Group Award for Social Progress

The Winner: Shell South Africa

Thulani Mfusin is a head of department at the Commercial Technical High School in Umlazi, South Africa. He is one of the teachers who got involved from the start with the Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education. Since Casme was set up by Shell South Africa in 1985, he has spent 563 hours attending Casme workshops and more formal diploma courses linked to the University of Natal.

This shows dedication to improving the science teaching in his school. Teachers who take up Casme's training offers pay 2,500 rand (about 300) a year in fees. They also have to pay for books and for transport to a Casme centre. They have to find time for study and they have to give up Saturdays and sometimes weeks for their course.

But they come, they acquire new confidence in the classroom and they inspire other teachers to come, too. Casme has taught teachers from over 300 secondary schools in KwaZulu-Natal and it has now expanded into three other provinces. Over the past five years, KwaZulu-Natal has outperformed most other South African provinces in the matriculation exams.

Shell set up Casme at a time when only one black pupil in 10,000 was attaining the qualifications needed for a career in the sciences. Poorly trained and poorly paid teachers from disadvantaged groups faced daunting problems in the classroom.

Casme was not initially popular with supporters of the then governing National party. But it soon found students; not only teachers but pupils keen to catch up on what they were not learning in school.

It now concentrates on the teachers. It holds workshops in maths and science teaching and has set up eight centres to provide teaching aids, which also supply kits for practical work, since South African schools are short of laboratory equipment. Teachers are beginning to take over the running of these centres.

Casme also runs leadership courses, to encourage teachers to set up their own workshops for other teachers. It runs more formal two-year part-time courses leading to further diplomas in education in maths, science and technology: 89 teachers have won diplomas and thereby a pay increase.

In 1997, Casme spent 2.45 million rand (300,000) in KwaZulu-Natal, of which Shell provided two-thirds, the rest coming from Telkom, the Thousand Schools Project and Natal University. Magnate Ntombela, the director, believes his centre has an important role in showing South Africa how teachers can develop their skills.

Casme is Shell South Africa's second major initiative in education. The first, Shell Education Services, has produced teaching aids for schools and run workshops for their teachers for 30 years. It distributes 40,000 items by mail order every year.

Shell's financial and practical contributions to South African society range from instruction for farmers and service-station operators to a management course for taxi men, and piped water for a village.

In 1995, Shell introduced to South Africa its Livewire scheme for encouraging young people to go into business. Livewire holds pre-training workshops to demystify business and discuss ideas. To those who show most promise, it then gives five days training. Over 1,000 youngsters took part in 1996. Livewire also enlists the help of other organisations to support the new businesses. ABSA Bank has provided start-up capital for two businesses in each province.

Lydia Phaloane, a social worker started by making curtains at her home in Sasolburg. She went to training sessions and entered a Livewire competition, winning the best young business category and 15,000 rand. Her firm, Home Elegance, specialises in interior decorating, curtains, clothing and also ornaments which she buys from Kenya. She goes to new housing areas to find new business.