By YES Youth, Lindy Shingange & Lerato Mashego
“National Science Week (NSW) is an annual celebration to promote awareness of the value of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to people’s daily lives. It is an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and SAASTA has been appointed by the DST as the implementing agency and plays the role of the National Project Management for the NSW.” as it is stated on the SAASTA website.
From 29 July to 3 August 2019, Penreach hosted National Science Week activities at the Penreach Shalamuka Science Centre. The interactive activities included; science shows, climate change informative lecture, career guidance and exhibitions. The Penreach mobile laboratories (Baylabs) took science to the community of Nkomazi over the course of the week, as well as the Penreach ECD team introducing early learning in science at target centres in Mataffin, Matsulu and Mkhuhlu. The children at the ECD centres enjoyed educational age-appropriate activities on the effects of climate changes, including a puppet show, and science shows.
“If we don’t do something about climate change, natural forces will take over and do something about it.” World-renowned naturalist, Sir David Attenborough. The theme for this year’s National Science Week “Facing the harsh realities of Climate change”, brought an opportunity to further educate our youth and spread awareness on the effects climate change will have on our future.
Penreach National Science Week activities reached a total of 18715 learners, 5559 members of the public and 663 teachers. There is a 41% increase in the total reach between 2018 and 2019.
Some of the YES Youth, who form part of the Penreach Team, got to accompany learners from Sitintile and Mshandza Secondary School to Penreach Partner, Manganese Metal Company (MMC) Nelspruit. During the educational tour around the factory learners engaged in the process of making steel and were informed about the industry. Thembalethu Slwane, a learner from Mshandza Secondary School shared, “It was a great experience for me to be part of National Science Week at Manganese Metal Company (MMC), I have also learned a lot about the process of making cans for example, Coca-Cola cans that they are made from a giant roll of aluminium sheet, the sheet of metal is pressed into round pieces and those pieces are formed into cups and process goes on as a can is made.”
Vodacom joined in on the Penreach NSW activities at Shalamuka Science Centre, where the team engaged with learners and educators about the e-school online learning programme. Learners and their educators left feeling informed about how technology will assist with their curriculum learning.
Another highlight was Penryn College Falconry scholars sharing information with attending learners, about how the effects of climate change will put our eco-system in danger, along with the learners having the opportunity to meet some of the Falcons. SANBI representatives invited learners to the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens, as well as a campus nature-trail at Penryn.
It was a week of opportunity to spread awareness around the topic of climate change and keeps our youth informed so that they can understand the role they play. Junior Mathebula, a learner from Khutsalani Secondary School said that; “After the National Science Week we will have a clear understanding about science and climate change. The science activities also enable us to focus and think out of the box and understand the scientific language of the curriculum and gain further scientific knowledge to take us forward.”
Research from the Department of Employment and Labour South Africa states that we are facing a shortage of skills in engineering, health professionals, related clinical sciences and life and earth sciences. Given Mashabane, Penreach Maths and Science Programme Manager expressed that “National Science Week inspires and equips young people and the general public with knowledge and skills that can motivate them to pursue careers in science, and proper understanding of science & technology especially those who do not have access to all resources”.