The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) is a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the convener of the annual National Science Week (NSW). This year, over 100 organisations have been awarded grants to promote science across South Africa from 29 July to 3 August, 2019. There will be at least one site hosting NSW activities in each of the 52 district municipalities and metros in the country.
NSW is an annual, week-long celebration of science, engineering and technology, attracting thousands of learners and members of the public to workshops, science shows, lectures and more science-driven activities at universities, schools, science centres and public facilities countrywide. The launch is aimed at creating awareness and unpacking the 2019 NSW theme —"Facing the harsh realities of climate change''.
Innovation was the order of the day as young scientists, experts and educators gathered at Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre, in Kimberley, to talk about climate change and innovation. The launch kicked off with many of the speakers unpacking ideas on how to innovatively make science more appealing, and the need to demystify subjects such as Mathematics and Science.
Guest speaker at the event, Minister of Higher Education and Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, highlighted issues around climate change in South Africa and the rest of the world, he emphasised the rise of temperatures to unprecedented levels and changing rainfall patterns. Dr Nzimande said this was one of the reasons government hosted the annual NSW.
“As part of our efforts to contribute to the development of a society that is knowledgeable about science and critically engages on science, technology and innovation, we need to emphasise and promote mathematics and science from an early age,” he said.
Tlou Masehela, Sabeehah Vawda, Michael Bodunrim, Simone Richardson, Kerryn Warren, Clarissa van der Loo, Carri-Ann Bloom and Anya Eilers are some of the young scientists who entered the FameLab competition organised by the SAASTA. In their speeches, these young scientists shared their projects, ideas and the execution that of.
The minister appealed to the higher education and research sectors to help develop more scientific interventions to deal with the challenges that are presented by climate change, as well as other domains such as humans and society, health, biological and food security, earth and environment, materials and manufacturing, and energy.
Acknowledging educators, the minister expressed the value and contribution made by mathematics and science educators. ”Government is prioritising the shaping of a skilled, future workforce. We have enormous challenges due to our history in terms of making education accessible, but also in making science accessible. One exciting development is that we can now align undergraduate studies and further studies in science under one ministry. One of the challenges is to defeat the fear of subjects like mathematics and science, and the NSW initiative is one of the platforms aimed at resolving that, “he said.
Learners from schools across the Northern Cape visited the more than 100 exhibits at the event. The exhibitors included science centres, higher education institutions, science councils, government agencies, and indigenous knowledge and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) organisations. Among the popular exhibits were those of Arcelor Mittal Science Centre, mLab Northern Cape, IKUSASA Technology Solutions, Sol Plaatje University (SPU) School of Natural and Applied Science – Data Science, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and SAASTA.