The country is abuzz with National Science Week (NSW) as learners and the general public across the country enjoy a variety of activities marking this exciting event. From the Western Cape to Limpopo, these activities hosted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and its partners aim to make the learning of science and mathematics fun.

NSW is one of the DST’s initiatives to celebrate and raise awareness of the role of science in society. Held under the theme "Advancing science tourism", in recognition of the United Nation's International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the events seek to encourage the public to visit scientific facilities in the various areas.

Launched by the Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor on Saturday, 5 August at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, the event aimed to link science and tourism. More than 80 exhibitors illustrated the theme through engaging exhibitions, which were enjoyed by about 3500 learners.

Since Monday, learners across the length and breadth of the country participated in similar activities. In Cape Town leaners from schools in and around Khayelitsha attended activities organised by the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) at the Oliver Tambo Community Hall in Khayelitsha. The organization interpreted the theme through what it calls ‘ethnomathematics,’ which included a variety of mathematical theories interspersed with arts and crafts created by various community artists.

“We wanted to show the link between culture and mathematics,” said AIMS’s Sinobia Kenny. She said while learners engaged in creative activities illustrating algebra, geometry, pythagoras theorum and natural numbers, they were also learning about local innovations designed by people in their community.

Among the arts and crafts on display were bead-makers, pottery and art. The various exhibitions were also using flagship projects like the Square Kilometer Array to teach learners how astronomers observe the sky and the universe. Other activities included using bio-informatics to teach about cancer and other dreaded diseases, while an exhibit by the Cape Town municipality raised awareness about water conservation as the Province was currently experiencing a water shortage crisis.

And in the country’s Limpopo Province, learners from as far as Vuwani and Mianzwi village were also enjoying science exhibitions, interactive demonstrations and science-related workshops.

Since the beginning of the week, learners in the Vuwani area were engaging with the science tourism theme by participating in an art competition held at the AFM Church. Tshivhazwaulu Primary and Lwenzhe Secondary schools emerged as the winners but there were no real losers as everyone learnt something new.

While the Vuwani science centre through its mobile science unit visited various areas to promote the importance of science in daily life. The areas included, Thengwe and Malamule, where various scientific experiments were conducted.

In the village of Mianzwi, the DST’s entity the CSIR presented a lecture to over 800 learners on science related careers. They were assisted with applications for higher education institutions and were also offered an opportunity to apply for bursaries.

A grade 12 learner from Lunwanngwe Secondary School, Takalani Mamagwa said she was grateful for the opportunity provided by the DST to learners in rural areas.

“I have been yearning for this kind of platform where we as young people and all stakeholders in the education sphere gather to discuss how we can shape our future.”

Mamagwa also bemoaned the lack of resources in rural areas as one of the biggest obstacles to achieving success.

“Unlike those in urban area, we do not have libraries, science labs and learning centers. Without these resources one wonder why people expect us to pass with flying colours. Our school is unable to obtain 100% pass rate. We are not reaching the target because we lack basic resources.

“We travel long distances to get access to internet and we are grateful that today we have an opportunity to use internet right here next to our home,” she added.

The NSW spirit also spread to universities and shopping centers where scientists showcased renewable energy in line with the theme. The University of Venda and Venda Plaza shopping centre in Thohoyandou were hives of activities as students and the public in general showed great interest to learn more about these exhibits.

Other science demonstrations illustrating the importance of science in everyday life also took place at the Tzaneen Mall in the Mopani district, where the focus was on electricity consumption calculation, water purification, basic recycling, body parts, perception & anatomy & physiology of a human being.