SciFest Africa 2017: Igniting the love of science in younger generations

Mehlolo Maphanga talking to learner about the exciting careers in STEM at the SciFest Africa 2017

An exciting event with thousands of learners touring exhibitions, attending workshops and lectures to experience live experiments.

The NEPAD Southern Africa Network for Biosciences once again participated in the SciFest Africa from the 8-12 March 2017 in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape South Africa. The theme for 2017, "Tour de Science", is linked to the UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Addressing the SciFest Africa 2017 participants during the official opening, Minister Pandor said: “The promotion, support and advancement of women and girls in science and technology is imperative for us and we are thrilled that SciFest Africa 2017 has this particular focus. She remarked that the Department of Science and Technology strives very hard to support initiatives which would ensure that women in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) are recognised and rewarded.

“As scientists in Africa and South Africa we need to develop solutions to address, yes, certainly our problems, our challenges, but we need absolutely importantly to position ourselves to compete globally with the rest of the world. I don’t want anybody to ever limit themselves to say I’m looking at what works for my village only. We begin in the village but we want to go global. So […] we are working hard to foster culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Minister Pandor.

The Minister emphasized that the cycle of fear of mathematics and science had to be broken “because once you get a good foundation in these subjects you're able to do really well right up to PhD level”.

She further highlighted that the Department of Science and Technology is being recognised as having the commitment to advance STI in South Africa and very exciting collaborative and productive partnerships with the African continent: “As we develop Science, Technology and Innovation in our country, we must ensure that we work with the rest of the African continent to ensure that at last, Africa will take its place among globally competent scientific nations.”

Ndilisa Maqungwana, a Grade 11 learner at Indwe High School, said: “This is my third year attending Scifest Africa and I always find it interesting because I get the opportunity to interact with scientists from well-known organisations and also to learn more about exhilarating careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). As a grade 11 learner who is interested in science I find this event eye opening and helpful to making wise decisions when choosing careers.”

Olwethu Koba, a teacher at the Executive Academy remarked that he brought learners to SciFest Africa to experience science beyond the classroom and to ignite the interest of learners in lower grades because they perceive maths and science as difficult subjects: “I believe coming to events like this will help them realise that science is exciting and can solve most of the problems we are facing in the communities.”