Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor urged learners attending the official launch of the Scifest 2017 festival to overcome their fear of mathematics and science.

Scifest is Africa's largest festival on science, technology and innovation (STI) supported by the Department of Science and Technology, the event is celebrating its 21st anniversary under the theme "Tour de Science".  The programme is focusing on journeys, tours, and paths of knowledge throughout the universe and to ensure the sustainability of planet Earth.

Addressing the opening event in Grahamstown last night (Friday), Minister Pandor acknowledged that there are certain challenges that need to be addressed to get children committed to mathematics and science. One of these is that science and technology, and particularly mathematics has been presented to young people as “a kind of bogey man. You know, something you should be afraid of. So young people are told these are difficult subjects - don't try to do them. They'll lower your overall average for your performance in tests and examinations”.

The Minister emphasized that the cycle of fear of mathematics and science had to be broken “because once you get a good foundation in these subjects you're able to do really well right up to PhD level”.

She said innovation was not beyond the reach of the curious pupil at school or the keen student at university, mentioning several other young role models who have come up with solutions to challenges currently facing South Africa.

Minster Pandor pointed out that there has never been a better time in history for Africans to develop homegrown solutions for challenges facing the continent. She urged particularly women and the youth to take advantage of the opportunities that are available.

Minister Pandor welcomed the focus on women at this year’s Scifest Africa, saying the DST supported a number of women in science initiatives. One such initiative is the Women in Science Awards which celebrate the achievements of womenin science.

 It is also a “reminder that we won't realize the full scientific potential of our country until all our young-women scientists are able to enjoy access to the bestfacilities and education”.

Minister Pandor expressed her satisfaction with the four recent Women in Science Awards winnerswho are presenting lectures at the current edition of the science festival.

Professor Shivani Mishra, presented a lecture on, ‘the philosophy of the water molecule on the first day of Scifest Africa.’ While Muthoni Masinde, a computer scientist, delivered a lecture on, ‘integrating indigenous knowledge on droughts with seasonal climate forecasts’.

 Dr Henrietta Wakuna Langmi, delivered the Brian Wilmot lecture on “Hydrogen Energy: a real solution to a real problem” shortly after Minister Pandor addressed the packed auditorium. Tomorrow (Sunday), Professor Jane Catherine Ngila, will deliver a presentation on, ‘water quality management’.

This year, threeEskom Expo Young Scientists, who featured prominently in the 2016 National Awards Finals, presented their projects in two separate lectures at Scifest Africa.

Bianka Reyneke, a pupil at the Welkom Gimnasium Secondary School in the Free State, conducted a study to determine the influence of perceptual motor abilities on performance in pre-school. She then found a linkage between a learners’ perceptual motor skills in pre-school and their academic performance in high school, especially in mathematics and physical science.

Andrea Blignaut and Charles Murray Hofmeyer, pupils at Woodhill College in Pretoria, have designed a robot that tests structural safety in mines - for use in rescue operations.