April 2014
Contents / home
FameLabSA 2014
Science Lens winners
Young, innovative and gifted
Intern receives Fellowship in Paris
Transformation in marine science
Looking for the brainiacs of yesteryear
Skies alive with space activities
Training the trainers
On your marks ... Get SET Go!
Schools debates advisory committee
Science community volunteers
The science of giving back
New science communication resource
Bringing nanotech to the disabled
Meet media guru Daryl Ilbury
Water World @ Scifest Africa 2014
Exploring marine science
Sharks, vegetables and alien fish
SAIAB cares
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Volunteers bring a breath of fresh air to the science community

  Zinzi Madiope, a volunteer at SAASTA, was recently appointed in a contract position as administrative assistant on the National Youth Service programme
Each year a group of fresh young faces breathes new life into the South African science community, eager to learn and participate in the activities of the 43 organisations where they work as volunteers for a period of 12 months.

A number of these volunteers join the science awareness and engagement community, such as science centres and science awareness units in science councils among others, where they deliver an invaluable service.

In support of the government's National Youth Service (NYS), which seeks to contribute to the enhancement of the youth as the current and future social capital of the country, the Department of Science and Technology initiated its National Youth Service (DST-NYS) programme in September 2007. SAASTA, as business unit of the National Research Foundation was appointed as project manager by the DST in April 2011.

The DST-NYS programme aims to identify and reach unemployed science, engineering and technology (SET) graduates and place them at host institutions in SET fields to ensure that they are given an opportunity to gain work experience and life skills, which will make them more marketable and employable. During the year they get specialised training in areas such as Business English, Project Management and Life Skills.

A total of 127 volunteers - all with at least diplomas or degrees and a few with honours and master's degrees - were appointed from 1 April 2013 for a year's service. They joined a group of 210 volunteers who had already been working in the science community since the previous year.

It is sad to see these enthusiastic young people leave at the end of their time with us, although quite a large number find positions in the organisations where they spent time as volunteers, such as Zinzi Madiope, a volunteer at SAASTA, who was recently appointed in a contract position as administrative assistant on this very project. A number of the volunteers also received offers for full-time positions elsewhere before the end of their contract, and we celebrated these opportunities with them.

Many of the organisations get wonderful testimonials from volunteers about the skills and experience they gained. The following are a few examples (in the volunteers' own words).

Jive Media Africa

Ayanda Nxumalo

"The directors and staff have been very supportive and nice towards us. I have learned a lot in just one month, particularly with managing a project. The project that I have been assigned is called Science Spaza, which is a science outreach programme aimed at disadvantaged schools. Managing this project has taught me more about time management since I keep a time sheet of everything I do relating to the project. The biggest lesson that I have learned so far in managing this project, is to have a production schedule. This has helped me put deadlines next to any activity that I have to do towards the project and in that way I know when I am supposed to complete a certain activity.

"Another valuable lesson that we have been taught at Jive Media Africa is drawing up budgets for our projects. This is, however, still a learning process since I have never been required to draw up a budget before. I have also learned to work more effectively with other people, since we assist one another with our projects."

Nomasonto Ntuli

"Working as an intern at Jive Media Africa has given me a foundation or a base of how things operate in the workplace. I have been given the opportunity to spearhead and manage one of the big projects of the company FameLab 2013. This project has taught me how to look at and think of things in a very critical manner. As the manager of the FameLab project I have in the past month developed important leadership skills to delegate and meet deadlines. I have also learnt the skill of working with and handling clients.

"The drafting of important reports and proposals for the project has also been my responsibility. This has developed my writing skills dramatically. I have been taught to draw up a budget for the project; this wasn't easy as a lot had to be considered for the budget. Hence, my self-confidence as well as my self-belief has risen. This indicates that the internship is fulfilling its purpose and desire to develop the skills of graduates fresh from university."

Bongiwe Mbatha

"I started at Jive Media Africa as an NYS volunteer and now I'm employed as a project manager. Working at Jive Media Africa has opened up a whole different world of opportunity for me. This experience has been both exciting and nerve wracking! I have learnt a tremendous amount about science communication and science education in South Africa through projects I've been involved in. I have improved my writing skills, my leadership skills and time management skills; to name but a few. I have also learnt the importance of teamwork, being able to rely and trust your colleagues to assist you and do a decent job of that task. This has been a great learning experience and I'm really grateful for this opportunity that SAASTA has given us."

A group of Sci-Enza volunteers and staff members inspired visitors during the University of Pretoria's Open Day. Back row: Ashlan Mohlaphuli, Malcom Sande (Student Assistant); Evans Malatula; Irene Schoeman (Sci-Enza Science Communicator); Colette de Villiers. Second row: Courtney Barrett (Student Assistant); Yvette Barrett (Sci-Enza Administrator); Helettia Danster; Letaro Mokoka; Kagiso Ledwaba; Febé Wilken; Thami Mgwenya. Front: Justice Kgarume and Rudi Horak (Sci-Enza Manager). View large version  
Feedback from the Sci-Enza Science Centre

"During 2013 Sci-Enza hosted 13 amazing young graduates as NYS volunteers. These remarkable young scientists inspired, excited and taught our visitors that Science is Fun! May you still achieve great things old interns; your Sci-Enza family misses you! Thank you DST and SAASTA for making the NYS programme possible!"

KwaZulu-Natal Science Centre

Celiwe Chauca on her attendance of the SAASTEC 2012 Conference

"Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the ice breaker at the SAASTEC 2012 Conference. The event was a wonderful learning experience. It was fantastic to meet and get to know individuals from other science centres and I learnt many new, exciting things from them.

"A special thank you goes to SAASTA for creating the opportunity for me and many other young graduates to gain employment experience in such an exciting and dynamic environment. I do feel a part of a greater science community."

From caterpillar to sanguine butterfly

  Yusrah in action during one of the exciting demonstrations she developed
It all started in July 2012 when my journey as a National Youth Service (NYS) volunteer at the Cape Town Science Centre (CTSC) began.

As a graduate in the field of Medical Biosciences, I was excited to learn about the variety of other sciences the CTSC focused on. As a result, I've been exposed to scientific knowledge and technologies I've never thought imaginable. I now have an appreciation for how all sciences link together and understand why it is so important for us to continue to educate and empower ourselves in science and technology.

Coming from a quiet laboratory background, I felt the need to work with people. The CTSC was the perfect place to do just that - I had the privilege of working with people of all ages. Working at the CTSC allowed me to constantly improve upon my public speaking, presentation, science communication, management, leadership, research and interpersonal skills, which is necessary for any workplace. Therefore, it was a great 'prep' period for my future career. With all these above-mentioned skills, it has now become second nature. I've gained all the necessary confidence in those areas, which I'm grateful for.


Among the many highlights of being an NYS volunteer, I not only travelled often, but also had the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children who needed it most. I had the privilege of educating, inspiring and motiving children and adults from all backgrounds about the wonderful world of science and how it benefits us. Witnessing their faces light up in excitement brings joy to my soul, knowing that there's hope for our future generation who now has the exposure and potential to work towards a brighter tomorrow.

What I also appreciated was the fact that the staff members of the CTSC were open to my ideas and therefore I was able to develop exciting workshops and demonstrations which always seemed to fascinate visitors who attended. I often had opportunities to take part in radio interviews, television debuts, international science communication competitions and seminars.

If I look back, I feel like I've started out as a little NYS caterpillar, which has grown into a sanguine butterfly ready to take on the world - for my growth and development, this great opportunity was an absolute necessity.

I can visualise my future children growing up in a fun, educational and mentally stimulating environment such as the CTSC. Ultimately, I've grown to love this place, and as a result, I've grown as an individual in it, along with great people, experiences and memories worth treasuring.

There's a saying: "when you're young work for experience, when you're older work for money". The NYS opportunity is a great way to get equipped for the 'real world', it is full of exposure, untapped potential, discovery and growth that I feel every science graduate should experience and most importantly enjoy, just like I did.