Programme Director, Mss Celiwe Chauca

Principal; Mr Buthelezi

Teachers and members of the School Governing Body;

Representatives of the Media in Education Trust;

Representatives of the local education district;

Representatives of the local municipality;

KZN Science Centre CEO, Ms Candice Potgieter, and her team; Learners.

It is an absolute pleasure to be here with you today.  When I learnt of the KZN Science Centre team's Career Jamboree programme I was immediately keen to join them on one of their school visits, as I am very passionate about programmes aimed at empowering girl learners, and making them aware of the career opportunities available to them.

The late Nelson Mandela, one of the world's greatest icons, once said, and I quote:

Education is the great engine of personal development.  It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.  It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.

Education is truly an equaliser, even in a country with vast inequalities like ours. You should never let your current circumstances determine your future prospects. Many of the top leaders in our country today came from impoverished backgrounds, but they were determined to make it in life and knew that education was their only chance to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

I want to encourage all of you today, and challenge you to strive and to excel at school.  A number of big companies have huge budgets aimed at putting young people who obtain good matric passes in maths and science through university. So even if your parents cannot afford to pay for your higher education, achieving good marks in Grade 12 could be your ticket to a bursary and ultimately to a better life.

How many of you have heard of a young man called Praise Ndebele?  I also didn't know about him until he achieved what even he thought was impossible.  He scored eight distinctions in Grade 12, with full marks for maths and science, earning the spot as the top matriculant in Gauteng.  And guess what?  He is a product of a no-fee school in Johannesburg's impoverished Ivory Park township.  Needless to say, because of this achievement, Praise won a bursary, and today he is studying Financial Accounting at the University of Cape Town.

Asked how he managed to get such good marks, he responded that he attended the Saturday classes offered at his school and also studied very hard.  So clearly the trick is to work hard.  I would therefore like to encourage all the Grade 12s writing their final exams at the end of October 2014 to study hard and make us proud.  The future of our country lies in your hands. Good matric results will open doors to a whole new world for you.

I also want to encourage those of you who still have to choose their subjects for Grade 12 to consider doing Mathematics and Physical Science.  Even if you do not intend following a science-based career after leaving school, the two subjects will enable you to cope better with studies in various other fields.  Did you know that even to excel in sports you need at least basic skills in calculating speed and distances?  Yes, even heroes like Itumeleng Khune and Caster Semenya need some maths to plan their sporting strategies.

Our country needs engineers, researchers and innovators.  Exciting projects like the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope offer plenty of career prospects and skilled researchers have opportunities in both the public and the private sectors.

I trust that you will engage with the KZN Science Centre team, participate in the experiments and satisfy your curiosity. I also want to invite the school to participate in extracurricular mathematics and science activities, in particular, Maths and Science Olympiads and competitions. The Department of Science and Technology supports these and we would be happy to give you more information about these exciting learning opportunities if your school is not already participating in them.

In closing, I would like to thank your principal and teachers for their hard work.  As we all know, teachers are some of the most important members of our society. Their professional efforts will make or break all our futures, so appreciate your teachers and work with them.