July 2015
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Centenary of Proxima Centauri
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Rhodes and SAIAB promote science
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It's a fact!

Rhodes University and SAIAB join forces to promote science in local schools

  Aphelele and Selunathi measuring a natural history specimen and changing alcohol in bottles
Rhodes University and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) teamed up to form an internship programme for high school learners in Grahamstown to educate them about some of the intricacies of science.

The programme, whose purpose is to promote excellence in the field of science, recruits learners who achieve exceptional marks.

According to the programme coordinator, Dr Francesca Porri, a senior scientist at SAIAB, applicants for the programme are learners from grade 10-12 who get 70% and above in science each quarter. Applicants have to fill out and submit a form, accompanied by a motivational letter and comments from their science educator.

A total of eight learners were selected for the programme this year. Two learners from Ntsika Secondary School in Grahamstown, Aphelele Jezi and Selunathi Sandi, both in Grade 10, were placed at SAIAB.

The programme runs during the first three school holidays. The learners are required to attend at least two sessions to qualify for their attendance letter.

Gaining experience in the workplace

Dr Porri reiterated that the objective of the internship programme is for the learners to get into actual contact with science and to gain experience in the workplace.

"Our aim is to equip these learners at an early age, to teach them about the fundamental tools and ethics of science so that, after this experience, they're able to decide whether they want to take on science in their career paths," said Dr Porri. "Those who do decide on science will know what to expect."

According to SAIAB's Collections Officer, Mr Mzwandile Dwani, the learners were keen to assist and learn new things. "It was wonderful working with them because they are fast learners," he said. "The best part is that they're familiar with SAIAB through Scifest Africa Water World, so this internship programme was an opportunity for them to put into practice what they were told during the collections tour."

The two learners gained exposure to basic curation of natural history specimens in the SAIAB collection, which entails measuring the length of a specimen, rebottling and labelling the specimen, and changing the alcohol in which the specimen is preserved.

Mr Dwani commended the two learners on their ability to pay attention and their accuracy in rebottling specimens without any alcohol spills, matching the correct label to the correct bottle and their cleanliness.

By Andisa Bonani, Communications Intern, SAIAB