THOHOYANDOU, LIMPOPO – Nissan South Africa (Nissan SA) today handed over two vehicles to the University of Venda (Univen) for use at its Vuwani Science Resource Centre (Science Centre). This follows funding earlier this year of R1.3 million to enhance the provision of maths and science programmes, which Univen offers through the Science Centre to neighbouring rural schools that have little or no maths and science infrastructure.  Nissan SA's General Manager of Group Corporate Affairs and Communication Pat Senne handed over a Tiida 1.6 Visia and an NP300 Hardbody 2.4l to Univen's Vice Chancellor and Principal Peter Mbati. 

The Tiida is to be used as a staff vehicle to ferry lecturers from the main Univen campus in Thohoyandou to the Science Centre, while the NP300 Hardbody bakkie has been reconfigured to accommodate a mobile science and maths laboratory, which will conduct classes on site during visits to neighbouring schools.

"In a rural area like Venda we believe our vehicles will make a huge difference to the lives of aspirant learners who are not able to attend the Science Centre through a lack of resources," said Senne in handing over the keys to both vehicles. "Taking maths and science to the surrounding schools will ensure that all children are given the opportunity to reach their full potential in maths and science subjects."

Annually around 3,000 children attend the Science Centre which boasts a 70 to 80 percent success rate, with many students taking further studies in maths- and science-related subjects at universities and technikons.  The Science Centre accommodates four laboratories which enhance learning in physics, chemistry, biology and computer literacy. This learning environment is now boosted with the addition of similar facilities aboard the mobile laboratory facility.

Said Vice Chancellor Mbati: "We are delighted that Nissan is taking such an interest in the welfare of our maths and science learners who stand to gain enormously from the company's intervention.  Government faces a huge task in addressing the critical skills gap as a result of marginalisation from science and technology subjects in the past and efforts like this one are critical in redressing the imbalance."

Apart from enabling the purchase of the two vehicles and mobile laboratory equipment, Nissan SA's funding is also being used to upgrade the maths and teaching skills of school educators, especially given the challenges presented with introduction of the new school curriculum. They will receive coaching from the Science Centre staff comprising around eight Univen lecturers, who assist on an ad hoc basis, and volunteers and interns from the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). 

Science Centre head Professor Vaith Sankaran is delighted at the injection of funds to assist the educational resource. " It will have a significant impact on promoting maths and science amongst our young learners who are faced with an increasingly technological environment. Equipping them with the necessary tools to cope is one of the best gifts we can offer and we are extremely grateful for the role Nissan is playing in making this possible," Sankaran said.

Both vehicles handed over today are manufactured at Nissan's manufacturing plant at Rosslyn in Gauteng province.

Said Senne: "We hope that the Tiida's name, Japanese for 'dawn of a new day', is an auspicious sign and will quite literally herald the beginning of a new era for maths and science learners who are critical for the technological advancement of our country."

The NP300 Hardbody Workhorse, legendary worldwide for its reliability and durability, was developed uniquely for the South African market. Its smaller companion, the NP200 and successor to the discontinued 1400 bakkie, is  manufactured through the recently launched Renault-Nissan Alliance project which was made possible through the investment of R1 billion to facilitate a dual manufacturing platform and upgrade the Rosslyn manufacturing plant.  Around 300 jobs have been created by the project, currently producing 40,000 units and increasing to 68,000 in 2009.


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