Thousands of learners have descended on the 1820 Settlers Monument in Grahamstown for Scifest Africa 2018, a science extravaganza aimed at promoting public awareness, understanding and appreciation of science, technology and innovation in South Africa.

Scifest Africa, funded by the Department of Science and Technology, is celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year, under the theme "Innovation 4.0", which refers to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

"The theme is intended to plunge us all into a brave new future, where lines are blurred, new skills become critical, disruption is the norm, and rules are broken almost as quickly as they are made," said Tony Lankester, Executive Director of the Grahamstown Foundation.

Scifest has become a platform on which a learner can meet a leading innovator, scientists can learn something new from emerging researchers, and science talks can inspire budding innovators from even the poorest communities.

The festival is part of the DST's science engagement programme, which is intended to create a society that is knowledgeable about science and engages critically with science issues.

The Department supports Scifest Africa because it is an excellent platform for both young and old to experience science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation.

Learners are participating in science demonstrations and workshops, and listening to talks presented by some of the country's leading scientists.

Scifest is taking place in venues across Grahamstown, including the Albany Science Museum, Ntsikana Gallery, and the Albany History Museum.

Learners were queuing to get into Water World, hosted by the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, from early morning. The science demonstrations at this venue include Unravelling DNA, Tracking Fish and Sharks, and Life on the Sea Floor of South Africa.

On the outskirts of Grahamstown, in Joza, outreach activities were held for learners who were unable to attend the main events.  Grade 10, 11 and 12 learners participated in workshops on climate change, palaeoscience and mathematics.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, will officially launch Scifest Africa, this evening – Friday, 9 March.

Dr Tiisetso Lephoto from the University of the Witwatersrand will deliver the annual Brian Wilmot Lecture about her work in biological and molecular sciences.

At the age of 26, Dr Lephoto is already leading in her field and is one of South Africa's brightest young researchers, who is passionate about science, agriculture and innovation, and mentoring young people.

Her area of research is the isolation and identification of biological agents to control insects that cause problems in agriculture. Using synthetic chemical pesticides have been reported to have bad effects on human, animal and plant health.

Guests will also be taken into the world of innovation in South Africa, with Prof. Mike Bruton talking about his book, "Awesome South African Inventions".

With continued support from the Department of Science and Technology, Scifest makes science, technology and innovation accessible to the public.