Each one of us tonight struggles with the same problem, namely what are the
shortcomings of the teaching profession? Rather, what are the shortcomings
of the educationalist? Before this question can be answered, definition must
first be given to the subject area of Chemistry: God in His all-knowing wisdom
thought it good to provide us with 103 elements, of which the universe in its
entirety consists. Chemistry has to do with the chemical elements and their
combinations, as well as the energy changes which occur during the process
of combination of the elements. Man made the subject Chemistry and
manages it by means of models. Modelling, in turn, gives rise to laws, theories
WHAT IS A CHEMIST? Everything that lives, everything that can think and
do, is, generally speaking, a chemist - that is to say, a producer and consumer
of chemical products. Everyone of us practises or experiments daily
with Chemistry. "Life" without Chemistry is unthinkable. The training of a
chemist, a specialist in the area of Chemistry, is just as professional and
career-orientated as any other recognised profession, e.g. that of an engineer,
a medical doctor, a dentist, etc.
WHAT DOES A PROFESSIONAL CHEMIST DO? He is on a voyage of
discovery. Using his existing models, he probes the hidden secrets of nature.
Every true researcher delivers a useful and meaningful contribution to the size
and profile of the existing pool of knowledge.
Every researcher lives in the expectation that his contribution will be recognised
and that, as a result, it will have a useful application.
WHAT ARE PURE AND APPLIED SCIENCES? I consider that it is meaningless
to draw dividing lines between pure and applied sciences and thus to
attempt to set aside specific working areas. A solid house, that is to say the
applied sciences, stands on a firm foundation (that is the pure sciences
Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics), despite the fact that this is not visible
to the observer. In other words, the pure and applied sciences form an integrated
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF THE PRACTISE OF PURE AND APPLIED
CHEMISTRY? The pure scientist communicates his newfound knowledge in
an understandable manner by means of publications, lectures and talks. In
essence, it is the gathering, classification and dissemination of knowledge. In
this way, new opportunities In the applied sciences and technologies, the accent has shifted and the goal
and motives are different. The final motive is usually financial gain.
Unfortunately our community does not see the foundations (pure sciences) of
the house, and the pure sciences are discriminated against in many areas. The
results of this pre-judgement has already reached worrying proportions, for
1. Chemistry departments at South African Universities have mainly
become service departments.
2. Full-time postgraduate students, and consequently outstanding research
projects, have decreased unsettlingly.
3. Competent and outstanding lecturers are becoming very scarce, while
vacancies remain unfilled.
4. Training programmes are no longer sufficient. 50% of well-trained (but
underprepared) scholars fail first-year Chemistry.
5. Our chemistry graduates no longer satisfy the demands of the chemical
and associated manufacturing industries, in other words the labour
We are already experiencing a crisis situation which might well lead to
TO WHO, BY WHOM, HOW, WHEN, MUST OR
SHOULD CHEMISTRY BE LECTURED?
Training in Chemistry must commence as early as possible, in fact already in
childhood. Every person must be trained in Chemistry. Everyone must be
made aware, through the press, radio, television and other communications
media, that life means Chemistry.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH TRAINING IN
CHEMISTRY AT OUR SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES?
The problem lies with the educationalist and the absence of a national model
(strategy) that could and should have predicted the present problems. The pre-
sent model - patched, inadequate, tired - is dominated by partially competent
elements. It has not kept pace with the rapid changes and demands of the
The child's and student's interest in Chemistry must be revived. They must
again learn to live Chemistry. We will have to develop a new model, using the
existing patched midel as a departure point.
All of us, in whatever capacity, and especially the State, have an obligation to
set our priorities right and make our contribution. The educationalist must win
back his status in the community. Large investments (manpower, maney) in
education can, and will, yield gratifying returns in the future.
My task as depertmental head is, amongst others, to provide for each student
and lecturer a challenging and satisfactory working and training environment.
We, together with the whole world, are engaged today in a battle for survival.
Are you going to deny yourself today, or your children tomorrow, participation
in the battle or in all the challenges? The challenges posed by the Chemistry
and its diverse applications are un limited, including amongst others the
search for alternative energy and food sources, renewable sourcs as raw
materials for energy and life-essential chemicals, new-generation agricultural
chemicals and medicines, etc., etc.
I see it as the duty of everyone to participate actively in the programme. No
university can ecist and prosper in isolation. The university has a grat responsibility
to the labour market and to the community in general. Close cooperation
between Chemistry departments and the business sector is therefore
of vital importance.