Plans are well advanced for converting disused railway carriages into travelling science classrooms, laboratories, and an exhibition centre in the form of a Science and Technology (S&T) Train that will travel to the deep rural areas of South Africa. This multimillion rand educational resource will focus initially on promoting the geosciences and their applications, providing onboard expertise in teaching and in the conduct of research, supported by the necessary technical equipment and the experts on board. It is also intended to reach out to and create science awareness among the young and their parents who live on its route; for undergraduate and postgraduate training; as a source of advice on social services; as a contributor to economic development; and as an adjunct to international research programmes.
The S&T Train is also to be a vehicle for training first-degree students at technical universities in particular, allowing them to obtain the experiential learning that is a prerequisite for them to graduate. Also featuring on the train’s agenda is problem-solving associated with rural daily life, such as the provision of clean drinking water, the search for sources of local building materials and assistance with appropriate placement of waste sites.
Redundant rolling stock donated by Transnet Freight Rail is currently being refurbished for its new role, and the project will be managed by the Tshwane Institute for Advanced Studies at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, with support from the Department of Science and Technology and other government departments.