WATCH: BCC trains learners on how to save water Criterion Waterworks Plant Supervisor Mr Mbulawa Maseko (left) with children after a tour of the facility last month

Mbulelo Mpofu, [email protected]

IT is no secret that Bulawayo is facing a dire water shortage, largely due to the adverse effects of the El Nino phenomenon, which has hindered adequate rains to facilitate enough supply of water.

This has led to a serious water-rationing schedule by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC),  to try and share the little water remaining in the city dams.

Such a situation has called for a collective effort to ensure water is saved and one of those ways saw the Michelle Maphosa and Wadzanayi Bwanya-led STEMexplorerz taking pupils to Criterion Water Works, to learn how raw water is processed.

Six urban and peri-urban learning institutions including St Peters, Aisleby, Tategulu, Manondwane, Mgombane, and Ntshamathe primary schools took part in this exercise meant to inculcate an adoption of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Stem) fields at a tender age.

Through “Sibo the Engineer”, a programme aimed at generating interest in Stem fields among children aged between eight and 12, a total of 120 pupils were taught on how water is processed to make it safe for drinking, with special focus on how best water can be used and reused to save it.

Civil engineer, Michelle Rutendo Sibongile Maphosa (in white helmet) posing for a photo with students after a tour of Criterion Waterworks last month

The programme, led by Ms Maphosa, who is the author of “Sibo The Civil Engineer”, a title that has been approved by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s Curriculum Development and Technical Services Department as a supplementary study book, spanned over three days.

It was the second of its kind as the inaugural trips were done last year.

At the plant, the supervisor, Mr Mbulawa Maseko hammered on the importance of saving water and implored pupils to be exemplary in employing water-saving practices.

“It is good to see you (pupils) coming here with an interest to know how water is collected and processed to make it safe for drinking. Bulawayo is facing a crisis, which demands a change of practice that I believe you can champion.

“Water is a precious resource that sustains life and it is crucial that we use and reuse it wisely to conserve this valuable asset. It is finite and needs to be conserved.

“As children, there are numerous ways in which water can be utilised and recycled to save it and implementing practices such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, fixing leaks, collecting rainwater for irrigation, using efficient water-saving appliances and fixtures, and practicing responsible water consumption in our daily lives can significantly reduce wastage,” he said.

“Additionally, treating and reusing wastewater for purposes like landscaping, industrial processes, and agricultural irrigation can help maximise water efficiency. By harnessing the potential of water conservation techniques and embracing a mindset of sustainable water management, we can ensure the availability of clean water for future generations and mitigate the impacts of water scarcity. We must work hand in hand with parents to save water,” he continued. 

To ensure comprehension and hands-on learning experiences for pupils, Maphosa donated 42 Stem kits as well as 60 copies of the “Sibo The Civil Engineer” to the six participating schools and encouraged them to establish Stem clubs.

Ms Maphosa, a civil engineer, author and advocate for Stem education in Africa is dedicated to improving the quality of Stem education in Africa and promoting the inclusion of women in Stem fields. 

Together with Ms Bwanya, Ms Maphosa co-founded Tea in 60, a virtual mentorship and networking platform for Zimbabwean girls and women in Stem. 

Ms Bwanya is actively involved in promoting user experience (UX) design, digital inclusion and women’s empowerment in Stem through speaking engagements, mentoring and training.

Speaking on the sidelines of the excursions, Ms Maphosa outlined the necessity of the STEMexplorerz initiative fronted by the “Sibo The Engineer” programme.

“I have since realised that Stem subjects are usually introduced at a later stage in education and the young minds are usually left out and that creates a gap.

“Stem subjects are practical and as a way of inculcating critical thinking and problem-solving mindsets, such a trip and the penning of the book was very necessary,” she said.

Children at the Criterion Waterworks in Burnside last month

“Sibo The Engineer” is part of a series of books, which will include, “Sibo The Chemical Engineer” and “Sibo The Electrical Engineer.”

The first title, which boasts of an animated version was published in partnership with the Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers (ZIE) in 2020.

At the site, pupils learnt the different processes involved in water purification such as aeration, coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, disinfection, pH adjustment storage and distribution.

The programme, made possible through the Alumni Thematic International Seminar (Ties) grant as a result of Ms Bwanya’s participation in the Alumni Ties in Cairo, Egypt last year, was an eye-opener to young minds to be future problem solvers in a world plagued by problems more than solutions.

Alumni Ties___- is sponsored by the US Department of State, with funding provided by the US Government and supported in its implementation by World Learning, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). 

Stem subjects have proven to play a crucial role in equipping pupils with problem-solving skills. 

By engaging in them, pupils develop critical thinking abilities and learn how to approach challenges systematically. 

Science encourages them to observe, hypothesise and experiment, fostering a mindset of curiosity and exploration. 

Technology exposes pupils to innovative tools and techniques, enabling them to analyse data, automate processes and find creative solutions. 

Engineering teaches pupils to design and build prototypes, encouraging them to think logically and optimise their designs. 

Mathematics provides the foundation for logical reasoning and problem abstraction, enabling pupils to analyse patterns, make connections, and solve complex problems. – Follow on X @MbuleloMpofu.


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