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Internship programme boosts quality of top achievers
25 000 schools in the country.
One of these top achieving schools - also rated as the top school in the Eastern Cape - is Victoria Girls' High School in Grahamstown. The article makes special mention of the school's relationship with Rhodes University (RU) and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), which make it possible for the learners to participate in an exclusive science advancement internship programme.
The programme is run by Dr Francesca Porri, Human Capital Coordinator at SAIAB, in collaboration with RU's Department of Zoology and Entomology. The initiative aims not only to enhance the quality of top achieving pupils at high school level, but also to boost excellence within tertiary education in order to form responsible, motivated, internationally competitive scientists by instilling enthusiasm and awareness for science in young learners.
Learners taking part in this programme are top science achievers (minimum average in Life Science of 70%, based on the results of the most recent examinations or averaged CASS marks up to the time of application). They work with staff scientists as well as postgraduate students assisting them with their work and research. Learners work during (a minimum of) two of the three school holidays, for a maximum of 30 hours per year. They receive a small remuneration, but it is the experience they gain that is the biggest bonus of this opportunity.
Learners in Grade 10-12 complete an application form at the beginning of the year, in which they motivate why they want to participate in the programme. Their Life Science teacher supports each motivation by adding comments before it is submitted. At the end of the year, learners who qualify receive an attendance letter from SAIAB and RU.
Young Academics Lecture Series
In addition to the internship programme, a Young Academics Lecture Series is presented by the RU/SAIAB partnership. The series consists of three talks given at Victoria Girls' High School by RU/SAIAB staff members and postgraduate students, during which the presenters explain their research using a seminar or oral presentation format. Presenters are briefed to pay particular attention to aspects such as the aim of their studies, applied or theoretical contextualisation, rigour of research, experimental design, concept of replication, data analysis (very simply!) and interpretation.
It is important for the learners to understand why and how scientists do research, what techniques they use, and the organisms they study. The presentation should be scientifically sound, but exciting and simple enough to capture the attention of the high school learners.
The internship programme and lecture series serve to reinforce the interest of the scientifically minded learners and stimulate interest in those learners who wish to choose a career in science.