Unizulu Science Centre, the University of Zululand’s Physics Department applied to the University authorities for permission to open a Science Centre (“Exploratorium”) in the faculty of Science, at the end of 1982. Permission was granted and work begun early in 1983, with a donation from Old Mutual. The Unizul Science Centre (USC)was housed in an old laboratory on the top floor of the Zoology building. Prof. Johan van der Merwe of the Physics Department, with the assistance of other staff, ordered and built equipment for the Centre, which was opened on the 6th of November 1986. The Centre has been open continuously for the 25 years since then and was visited by about 3000 students annually whilst at the University. It comprised some 130 interactive exhibits.
At the end of 1991 the head of the Physics Department applied to the Foundation for Research Development (now the NRF) for funding for a staff member for the Centre. This was granted, and from October 1992 to mid 1997, the Centre was run by the Physics Department and sponsored by the FRD. Since late 1997, the Centre has been run by the University with inputs from various other donors. As well as hosting visitors to the Centre, the project runs a number of outreach activities (detailed later in this document), many in cooperation with local (Richards Bay) industries.
In November 1995, USC was offered the use of a 1000 square metre industrial building in Alton, Richards Bay. Funds were raised from local industries for necessary renovations which took place from July 1996 to February 1997. The Science Centre, with all its exhibits, was moved to the new facility, and opened on the 27th of February 1997. The new facility has allowed for expansions in the programme, visitors and staff, being visited by over 30 000 learners annually.
There have been three expansions to this facility since then. In November 2004, a new 600 square metre building was opened, funded by the Department of Science and Technology. This provided 400 square metres of new exhibit space and a multi purpose classroom. In November 2006, a further extension comprising a 200-seater auditorium and TRAC-Lab was opened, with funding from BHP Billiton (building) and Murray and Roberts (TRAC-Lab).
On 09 September 2011 USC made international history with the opening of the very first official children’s museum in Africa. Funding for this was made possible by BHP Billiton. The organisation TREE (Training and Resources in Early Education) has partnered with the USC and will be running ECD (early childhood development) programmes for children ages 3-7 as well as running training workshops for crèche facilitators.
At present USC is 2600 sq metres, with a dedicated exhibit area of 1600 sq metres, a state of the art auditorium, a smaller theatre, TRAC lab and two classrooms. There is also a small outdoor exhibits area.
Unizul Science Centre (USC) is aimed at Science educators and learners in KwaZulu-Natal schools surrounding the University of Zululand. The focal area stretches roughly from the Tugela River in the South to Kosi Bay in the North, and inland as far as Nongoma. It includes roughly a quarter of KZN’s education regions which contain about 550 secondary schools. The vast majority of these schools (535) fell under the previous Department of Education and Culture (KwaZulu) with the remaining 15 (3 %) being model C or private schools.
Education departments in KwaZulu-Natal were amalgamated in 1995, but historical inequalities in terms of facilities and educators have not changed. Education in Northern KwaZulu-Natal generally is in a critical condition, and Science education is no exception, with under-qualified educators, little or no equipment and many schools not even electrified or supplied with water. The region has also received very little outside assistance in the past, being fairly distant from any large centre. The educational regions covered have been identified in many surveys and studies as the most disadvantaged in the province (and amongst the most disadvantaged nationally!)
Unizul Science Centre has been acclaimed locally, nationally and internationally, winning numerous awards in the field of Science Education. The Unizul Science Centre won the 2001 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) award for the most outstanding contribution to Science and Technology by a non-profit organisation. Derek Fish, the Centre Director, won the 1999 NSTF award for best individual contribution and was a finalist in the 2010 and 2011 awards for Best Science Communicator. Derek has also won the S.A. Institute of Physics Silver Jubilee Medal for his work in USC, as well as being placed in the Katlego awards for NGO leadership.
USC staff have served on the Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres (SAASTEC) council since it was formed and Derek is a past President and member of the International Programme Committee which coordinates Science Centre World Congresses, helping to organize the 2002 World Congress, and securing the 2011 Congress for South Africa. Derek represents Africa on the world science centre body (ASTC International Committee). Derek has repeatedly won Best Science Demonstration Competitions at Physics and Science Centre conferences in South Africa, as well as in the UK. The Science Centre won 3 separate business awards at the end of 2004. Unizul Science Centre has hosted 3 of the 12 SAASTEC Conferences, including a recent international one.
Bookings MUST be made for ALL Visits
- Discuss the proposed visit with your class and the Principal
- Investigate what transport you will use to travel
- Choose the date for your visit AT LEAST TWO (2) WEEKS AHEAD
– No visits within the week you phone
– Have alternative dates available
- Phone 035-797 3204/3278 (between 8am and 4pm weekdays) to make a booking
- The information WE NEED TO KNOW
– School’s Name
-Your Name or the name of the accompanying educators
– Preferred date and time of visit
– Details of learners attending USC- number and Grade, Language preference, subjects covered
– A contact number for you or the school
– Whether you are visiting anywhere else on the same day.
– Whether you will attend the ENTIRE 4 hour programme, or which parts
- Finalise your transport arrangements, confirm them the day before departing
- Depart ON TIME on the correct day in order to arrive ON TIME
- On arrival at the ZCB Community Park (Gate 1) report to the Science Centre, and pay your fee
Physical Address of Science Centre:
Unizul Science Centre, Gate 1, ZCB Community Park,
South Central Arterial, Alton, Richards Bay
UNIZUL SCIENCE CENTRE, P.Bag X1001,
Ph/fax: (+27) 035-7973204
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Directions to the UNIZUL Science Centre
GPS Co-ordinates : 28.77S 32.05E