July 2013
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Debates winners in New York
SA learners scoop silver in Beijing
SA scientist impresses in FameLab
Nanotech draws attention in Kenya
SAASTA salutes David Block
Science Centre CEO awarded
Young science brainpower awarded
75 years of coelacanth research
Join in recording the diversity of life
Open your own Science Spaza
The Universe is expanding
"Space Skype" links kids
Coastal and marine science in SA
Internship programme
A scientist for a day
iThemba LABS - advancing knowledge
Ex ZooClub members' success
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

SA's top young science brainpower awarded

  The four learners who will be attending the London International Youth Science Forum later this month, photographed with Dr Jabu Nukeri, Managing Director of SAASTA. From left, Lloyd Mahadeo and Shihal Sapry, both of Star College in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Nukeri, Sindie Gama of Mpuluzi FET High School in Mpumalanga and Hamandishe Mathivha of Mbilwi Secondary School in Limpopo.
  Graham Briggs, CEO of Harmony Gold Mining Company, the main sponsor of the National Science Olympiad, with the overall winner of the 2013 competition, Thiolan Naidoo of Star College in KwaZulu-Natal.
In March this year, more than 30 000 learners from around South Africa and four neighbouring countries sat down to write the 49th National Science Olympiad test.

On Monday I July, the 110 best achievers arrived in Pretoria for a week of edutainment and exposure to careers in science, engineering and technology. The learners attended lectures by experts in various fields of science and visited a mine, the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, the Botanical Gardens, Forensic Laboratories, Denel, the Sci-Enza Science Centre at the University of Pretoria and the Johannesburg Observatory for an evening of sky viewing.

"Our intention is to expose the learners to the world of science and to let them see for themselves where the science is happening," says Dr Jabu Nukeri, Managing Director of SAASTA. The competition is aimed at encouraging excellence in science education, stimulating interest in the sciences and inspiring young people to consider careers in science, engineering and technology.

Awards event

The week culminated in an awards event, where the youngsters were treated to motivational talks by two inspiring young scientists - Wandile Mabanga, who is currently completing his Masters' in Theoretical Physics at Wits and Dr Patience Mthunzi, a senior scientist in the biophotonics research group within the National Laser Centre of the CSIR.

Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Basic Education reminded the learners of the example set by former President Nelson Mandela. He said that however far the learners bring it in life, they need to stay connected to other people because that is how they can amplify and evaluate the impact of their knowledge and expertise.

Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director-General at the Department of Science and Technology told the audience how technology made huge strides in the first six decades of the 20th century and challenged them to do the same for this century. "If, by shaping your future and career, you want to be part of shaping the future, I invite and encourage you to join the exciting world of science and technology in South Africa," he said.

In his address Graham Briggs, CEO of Harmony Gold Mining Company Ltd, urged the learners to be passionate about science and technology, for that is how they can help shape the future of our country. Apart from being the main sponsor of the Olympiad, Harmony, one of the largest gold producers in the world, also sponsors participation in the Olympiad of schools in the areas close to their mines, coaching of these learners and their teachers, as well as educational material to assist them to participate and excel in the competition.


Then it was time to announce the winners and present the prizes. The top national performers won an all-expenses-paid trip to the London International Youth Science Forum or the Australian National Science Focus Week. Forty prizes - including laptop and desktop computers and laboratory equipment - were handed to the deserving winners and schools.

The top five achievers were:

  • Physical Science (Grade 12): Thiolan Naidoo, Star College, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)
  • Life Science (Grade 12): Phathutshedzo Rambau, African Leadership Academy, Gauteng
  • Physical Science (Grades 10 and 11): Shihal Sapry, Star College, KZN
  • Life Science (Grade 11): Cynthia Okoye, African Leadership Academy, Gauteng
  • Previously disadvantaged school - Physical Science (Grade 12): Siphamandla Mabaso, Mpuluzi FET (Further Education and Training) School, Mpumalanga

The overall winner of the Olympiad, who scored the highest marks in the Physical Science paper, was Thiolan Naidoo of Star College in KwaZulu-Natal. In 2012 Thiolan also scored the highest marks in this category of the Olympiad as a Grade 11 learner. Since Thiolan attended the London International Youth Science Forum last year, he received a laptop computer this year. Lloyd Mahadeo, also from Star College, will attend the Forum this year.

The Forum brings together over 300 students of the sciences from almost 60 countries on the five continents. The learners participate in a programme of lectures and demonstrations from leading scientists, as well as visits to industrial sites and research facilities.

Register for the next Olympiad!

Registration for the 2014 National Science Olympiad will open in September this year and the final closing date is 2 December 2013. Please visit www.saasta.ac.za for more information.

1 The National Science Olympiad is an annual written examination comprising two papers, or streams - Physical Science (Physics and Chemistry) and Life Science (Biology). Learners can choose in which stream they want to compete. The top performing learners and schools are then awarded based on excellence. Participation in the Olympiad increased over the last 10 years from just over 9 000 to the current 30 000. This is due largely to more intensive marketing of the competition and a major sponsorship from Harmony Gold Mining Company, Ltd (Harmony). The Department of Science and Technology provides sponsorship for the participation of learners from their 18 "adopted" Dinaledi schools, and the Department of Basic Education provides support at provincial level through its Mathematics, Science and Technology coordinators.