April 2013
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This viral ad may be contagious
A new sea view
75 years of coelacanth research
Sell your science at FameLab
Young science communicators show their mettle
Brazil nuts, bees and orchids
Winning design powers aeroplane
Journalists and scientists meet
Brainstorming solutions for tomorrow
Meet Sibongile Mokoena
SAIAB at Scifest Africa
A world in one cubic foot
Biodiversity Youth Symposium
Daveyton now has an eye to the sky
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Meet educator extraordinaire - Sibongile Mokoena

Sibongile Mokoena is passionate about sharing the exciting and life-changing world of knowledge with the young people of South Africa.

In a career spanning 40 fruitful years, she has taught and mentored generations of young people throughout the country, not only as school teacher, but also as a college lecturer, an author of an award-winning environmental learning guide and, ultimately, as the dynamo at the helm of the highly acclaimed environmental education outreach programme of the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).


Sibongile tells learners about the range of exciting careers available in the environmental sciences.
"Sharing and opening up the exciting world of knowledge excites me most about life, because I am a teacher, a librarian and a mother." - Sibongile Mokoena

Learners are exposed to hands-on activities through SAEONís science camps where they learn the scientific skills of environmental observation, guided by a team of passionate scientists.
SAEON's educator workshops introduced by Sibongile are aimed at improving the quality of science learning.

The SAEON programme has not only succeeded in raising awareness among a large number of young people about the importance of environmental observation and conservation, but has also introduced them to the exciting world of environmental sciences through science camps led by passionate young scientists, where hands-on activities expose learners to the scientific skills of environmental observation. This training has had a marked impact on the progress of the learners in maths and science, and several of these youngsters have since opted for careers in the sciences.

Sibongile firmly believes that teachers are crucial to the education process, hence the teacher training courses she has introduced at the SAEON nodes to improve the quality of science learning. These courses are so in demand that teachers gladly sacrifice their holidays to attend the courses. Always the perfectionist, Sibongile has an evaluation body in place that regularly monitors and evaluates the impact of SAEON's education outreach programme to ensure best practices throughout.

GetSETgo spoke to Sibongile about her passion for teaching and mentoring, her future plans and the things in life that excite her.

Tell us about your work in science education outreach
The purpose of the SAEON science education outreach programme is to expose, attract and encourage young people to pursue careers in the environmental sciences. Through teacher support we hope to improve the quality of science teaching. Learners are exposed to hands-on activities through science camps where they learn the scientific skills of environmental observation, guided by a team of passionate scientists.

What does your position at SAEON entail?
I am based at the National Office in Pretoria and my work is to coordinate and provide guidance to the programme as a whole. The education outreach activities mostly take place at schools in the vicinity of the SAEON nodes - in Phalaborwa, Grahamstown, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town.

What did you do before joining SAEON?
I worked for BirdLife SA as an education officer where I developed a resource, Learning for Sustainable Living, which won the Green Trust Award for Best Project in Environmental Education in 2002. Before that I was a lecturer at colleges of education.

Where did you grow up?
Mostly in KwaZulu-Natal, where I attended school.

What did you study after school? Where and why?
I trained as a teacher, and qualified as a librarian at the University of Zululand. A few years later I obtained an honours degree from Wits University. The history of our country at the time mostly determined where one could live and which university one could attend.

What are your future plans?
I would like to continue, in some way, to be involved with teaching and mentoring for as long as possible.

What do you do in your spare time?
I do Pilates, participate in women's programmes in my church and do crossword puzzles while watching 7de Laan Omnibus on Sunday afternoons.

What is your favourite dish?
Idombolo nenyama (dumpling and stew).

What excites you most about life?
Teaching and mentoring. Sharing and opening up the exciting world of knowledge, because I am a teacher, a librarian and a mother.

Tell us more about your family
I have two daughters and no grandchildren. My sisters and brothers are my closest friends along with my mother, who is 88 years old.

What are your hobbies?
I make costume jewellery and I'm a passionate cook.

What is your motto?
A positive attitude.

Small wonder then that many of the young people Sibongile taught and mentored over the years have become her lifelong friends, even though some have left South African shores to take up careers abroad. Even today they still seek the wisdom and advice of their teacher and mentor.

Contact Sibongile Mokoena at Tel 012 349 7713.