Inspiring the scientists of tomorrow

The world of space science became tangible for thousands of learners from the iRhini township in the Eastern Cape, where the Scifest Africa outreach festival is taking place. School pupils attending the event at the Joza indoor sport centre on Friday were mesmerized by a presentation from NASA's retired chief technologist, Jim Adams.

Mr Adams, who presented a lecture on space exploration and the moon as part of Scifest Africa's outreach programme, took part in the initiative to take science to learners, educators and communities who are not able to attend the science festival at the National Settlers Monument.

This township science festival has become a permanent feature of the major festival, following a decision taken last year to take such initiatives to underprivileged schools in Grahamstown.

Different organisations including the South African Astronomical Observatory, the SA National Space Agency, Living Maths, the Square Kilometre Array and the Technology Innovation Agency have come together to expose young minds to the world of science, technology and innovation.

Fourteen-year-old Chelsea Moses from Nombulelo Secondary School attended her first Scifest Africa event and she was so excited about it that she wanted to share it with the world.

"I am a writer for a youth newspaper called upstart and I want to tell them about the exciting presentations at the science festival," says Moses. "I came here because of my interest in science but now I want to find out more about sharing what I learnt with other people who do not understand."

Moses believes that it is important for young people to be exposed to the fun ways of learning about science because it is not easy to understand. "If I write about science people will get a new understanding of science in the same way we get to understand it during the Scifest Events."

Another 14-year-old learner, Siyamthanda Shode from Ntaba Maria Primary School says that events such as these help children to learn about the basic background of things and it can inspire them to be scientists one day. "I want to be a scientist," says Shode. "I want to work with chemicals and be able to test what chemicals we need to make different things".

Shode says the event is a fun way of learning about science. "Scifest Africa is exciting because we get to talk about things that we did not learn about in school," she says.

"Today we learnt about rocket engineers and the moon and the people who get to walk on it. It's exciting because the more we learn about it the more we see that we can be just like them."

The IRhini Township Science Festival forms part of an exhilarating Scifest Africa programme to stimulate interest in youths to pursue careers in Science Technology and Innovation (STI) and become leaders in these fields.

Coordinator Pranesthan Govender said based on the success of last year's eKasi science festival, Scifest has increased the numbers of learners attending and secured funding to continue with this initiative beyond the annual event.

"We are extremely grateful for this opportunity and this allows us to expand the learners' knowledge beyond the classroom and have practical experience that is taught in a more fun and interactive way than just reading from the textbook," said Govender.

According to him, the same activities are being taught to teachers as well, as there was the need to increase knowledge for the better understanding of maths and science in society.

Source: Department of Science and Technology

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