The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, has commended the participation of South African schools in global science competitions, saying they were nurturing the country’s future researchers and innovators.
Although South Africa has not done well in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in recent years, the Minister said the situation was not entirely without hope. Since 1999 the country has been sending high school learners’ research projects to the world’s most prestigious science fairs, such as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in America.
"Our learners’ performances have been consistently good," said Minister Pandor, speaking at the launch of National Science Week at the University of Free State in Bloemfontein on 2 August, explaining that while two projects had been entered into the event in 1999, 11 had been entered in 2014.
The Minister said events such as National Science Week (NSW) were aimed at boosting interest in scientific and technological development and innovation, helping the country transform into a knowledge-based economy.
The NSW is an annual week-long event aimed at celebrating the role that science, mathematics, engineering and technology play in everyday life and encouraging more young people to follow careers in these fields.It attracts thousands of learners to workshops, science shows and exhibitions at universities, schools and science centres countrywide.
The annual focus week is in its 15th year, and takes place under the theme "Today’s Science, Tomorrow’s World". Over 4 000 people including learners, educators and parents converged at the campus to experience "science at work", featuring array of exciting science activities, including a sky-viewing opportunity at the nearby Boyden Observatory.
The Minister invited all citizens to participate in National Science Week activities from 2 to 9 August, saying this should stimulate interest among the public, especially young people.
"Our success depends on whether our country is ready to harness the advantage of large numbers of young people who are able and willing to work. This is where the provision of education becomes an important resource in ensuring that our young people are well prepared and equipped with knowledge and skills to handle life."
Free State Premier Ace Magashule said: "We are delighted as the province to be hosting this year’s National Science Week activities. These events will surely go a long way in inspiring our young innovative and inquisitive minds in the fields of research and development. As the provincial government, we value the output of scientific research and development, as we see it as a potent instrument to our efforts of growing the knowledge economy of our province in particular and our country in general. We will increase our investment in resources for the development of this sphere of life. Our strategic posture is in ensuring that we surpass the standard we set by being the number one, best performing province in the Matric results of the Class of 2013, with significant contribution in the country’s status of greater output in Maths and Science".
“Every aspect of life is touched by science, and with more vibrance in the approach to teaching maths and science, great potential can be unlocked among young people; impacting on quality of life in the future,” said Dr Choice Makhetha, Vice-Rector: External Relations at the University of the Free State.