The remarkable feats of one Hamandishe Mathivha, a learner in the backwaters of Limpopo, have not gone unnoticed.
||Hamandishe Mathivha shares the spotlight with the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor (left) and the Managing Director of SAASTA, Dr Jabu Nukeri
In fact, they inspired the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) to break with tradition and confer a Special Award at the 51st National Science Olympiad Awards held at a glittering ceremony at Emperors Palace on 2 July 2015.
Mathivha received the award, in the form of a voucher worth R40 000, in recognition of his consistent top-drawer performances in the past three olympiads. He was in grade 10 when he first entered the competition. In the 2015 competition, he emerged among the top five grade 12 learners in physical science as joint number two with three others. Mathivha scored 73% in the examination.
He received the prize money on condition that he uses it to register and pay his tuition fees at a university of his choice.
What makes Mathivha's exploits even more extraordinary is that he attends a previously disadvantaged school (Mbilwi Secondary School) in the rural village of Sibasa, Limpopo. His counterparts in the top five all study at renowned private schools such as Bishop High School in the Western Cape and Star College Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. Mathivha, on the other hand, has had to contend with a lack of study materials at his poorly-resourced school and relied on borrowing textbooks from friends in higher grades as well as tertiary-level science material in preparation for the olympiads over the successive years.
Mathivha appears pleased with his progress so far. His excitement is almost palpable as he shares his dreams for the future. "You need to turn your disadvantages into advantages and focus on working hard to achieve your goals and dreams," he says. He believes that the world is his oyster and the scope for success and innovation wide. Opportunities in science abound for ambitious young learners irrespective of their backgrounds.
Being the dedicated, hardworking and visionary young man that he is, Mathivha has already articulated his plans for the prize money. He plans to pursue a degree in Computer Science at the University of Cape Town next year. Further, he hopes his example inspires other learners to rise above adversities and chase their dreams with zeal.
Mathivha glowingly describes the National Science Olympiad as an "inspirational initiative". The success of a former school mate in the competition is what first motivated him to enter three years ago, he says.
The experience of being among the top achievers in 2012 and attending the London International Youth Science Forum in 2013 has opened his eyes to the role that young learners can play in advancing science.
By Nolwazi Bengu