STEMI Conference 2019

Delegates from the STEMI Olympiads and Competitions community gathered together at the 4th Community of Practice conference held at the CSIR International Convention Centre. The Community of Practice conference which was launched by former Minister of Science & Technology Honourable Naledi Pandor in 2016. This year, the main objective of the conference is to unpack and establish common understanding of inclusivity and promote the contribution of extra-circular STEMI activities in the development of STEMI human capital.

The conference was officially opened by Dr Jabu Nukeri, Managing Director for the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement. In his welcome note, Dr Nukeri emphasised the importance STEMI Olympiads and Competitions Community of Practice conference in showcasing the awareness on the critical role of Science, Engineering and technology to the country’s economic development goals.  “It is through events like this that we are showing our commitment in moving towards the 5th industrial revolution and the economic development of our country, especially in STEM”. Said Dr Nukeri.

Dr Nukeri highlighted that STEMI Olympiads and Competitions are critical to the development of South Africa.

Mr Isaac Ramovha, the Department of Science and Technology; Science Promotion Director presented the 0bjectives of the 2019 STEMI Conference.  Amongst other the Conference aims to focus on issues relating to determination of the current and the future landscape of the STEMI Olympiads, with more emphasis in the next three years. Mr Ramovha further indicated the focus will also be on the role of extra-circular STEMI activities in enhancing participation in STEM subjects and shaping STEM career directions among young people.

“We need to look into how volunteerism, coaching and mentoring can enhance inclusivity and excellence in STEMI Olympiads and competitions”. Said Mr Ramovha.

“We also need to assess the effect of the changing technological environment on inclusivity and excellence within the context of improved access to information”. Concluded Ramovha.  

Mr Moloko Matlala provided an update on the STEMI Olympiads and Competitions. Mr Matlala provided the delegates with progress since the 2015 inaugural conference. Mr Matlala highlighted that there has been progress is most of the issues raised during the 2019 Conference.

“The mass participation of learners is increasing on an annual basis. We have a record of about 76 Science Centres participating. We have also improved involvement

Matlala also highlighted the importance of professional bodies and also emphasised the importance of educators in STEMI Olympiads and Competitions. However, Mr Matlala indicated there is still lagging in the tracking and nurturing of learners.

Mr Daniel Maubane, the Chairperson of ASTEMI provided an update on the STEMI Olympiads and Competitions since the launch in 2017. The twenty member organisation which increased from seventeen in 2017 was established with the aim of bringing the organisers of STEMI Olympiads & Competitions together to expand Olympiads & Competitions to a broader base of learners and educators.

 Mr Maubane said “ASTEMI aims to become an integral part of the robotic pilot programme that was announced by the Minister of Basic Educations Mrs Angie Motshekga earlier in 2019.”

Mr Maubane highlighted that there is a need increase the country’s participation in global competitions.  Maubane added that there is a need to include township and rural schools in the STEMI Olympiads and Competitions.

“I would like to encourage science centre and universities to continue making a meaning contribution to expose learners to STEMI Olympiads and Competitions. This can be achieved by ensuring that there is transformation equity and redress”. Said Maubane. Mr Maubane indicated that there is a need to increase learners’ participation in STEMI Olympiads and Competitions activities. Mr Maubane also added that the aims to have its own establishment/building as that will assist in achieving their goal of bringing together various role players in the sector.

The keynote address was delivered by the former South African Statistician-General Dr Pali Lehohla. Dr Lehohla who was at the helm of Statistics South Africa between 2000 and 2018 was well dressed in his yellow signature suite.

The big question raised by Dr Lehohla during his presentation was where are we and where should we be with regard to STEMI? To respond to this, Dr Lehohla’s presentation focuses mainly on issues relating to what need to be done about bringing in STEMI, reflections on the South African political landscape, especially the parliament.

During his presentation Dr Lehohla indicated that the fourth industrial revolution is a reality. “The fourth industrial revolution is here and will rig havoc in South Africa.” Said Dr Lehohla.

“[We] should implement a mandatory Module on the future of work and being human in the fourth industrial revolution at university and at lower levels.’’

Dr Lehohla emphasised the importance of planning.  “We should implement credible forward looking systems of planning. Everything we do must be based on facts, logic and common good.” Said Dr Lehohla.

Dr Lehohla added that there should be free access to internet to all centres on learning in the country. He also added that the country needs to replicate on systems that seem to be working. “[We] need to replicate and scale up to the likes of Mbilwi High School as a model.” Said Lehohla. 

Dr Lehohla emphasised the importance of educational school trips by recommending that there should be a mandatory two-day school pilgrimage to the One Square Kilometre Array for every South African child before the age of twelve in order to inspire their minds.