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Grahamstown learners showcase scientific projects

Date Released: Thu, 1 August 2013 17:59 +0200

Rhodes University and Eskom recently hosted the annual regional component of the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists and sponsored R300 000 in prizes and bursaries for top performing pupils. The event gives learners from schools around Grahamstown the chance to showcase projects about their own scientific investigations and the opportunity to win science bursaries to study at Rhodes University.

There were close to 130 projects entered this year, requiring an additional venue to cope with increased number of projects. Prize-winners this year included Nicole Oyetunji, a Grade 11 learner at Victoria Girls High School (VGHS) in first place, Ntsikelelo Charles, a Grade 11 learner at Ntsika Secondary School in second place, Lauren James of VGHS in third place, Jackie James of VGHS in fourth place and Jessica Harris of DSG in fifth place.

Oyetunji’s project analysed the role of salt water when used in farming to increase the antioxidant level in tomatoes. She was particularly interested in researching a water-related aspect because of South Africa’s status as a water stressed country.  

Oyetunji said she is overjoyed with the prize of a bursary to study at Rhodes University as she has always wanted to study Entomology but lacks the funds to do so. “I didn’t know what I was going to do because I have a single mom and we didn’t know how I could go to university. I am so happy now because I can do what I’ve always wanted to,” she said, adding that she is grateful to Eskom and Rhodes University for the opportunity.

Charles, the second prize recipient from Ntsika Secondary School, is planning to pursue his dream of studying Pharmacy and is hoping to travel as well.

Professor Janice Limson, head of Biotechnology at Rhodes University and Chairperson, Rhodes University School of Biotechnology (RUBiSco) handed out the bursaries and emphasised Rhodes University’s commitment to facilitating quality science education in South Africa.

“It is a privilege to be part of this initiative and to partner with Eskom and SciFest Africa. Our doors are wide open to all pupils who are interested in pursuing studies in this area, whether you want to put on a lab coat or visit the labs and just see what it would be like to study science at Rhodes University,” she said.

According to Mr Bandile Jack, Maintenance and Operations Senior Manager at Eskom, by participating in the Expo, students increase their awareness of the wonders of science, add to their knowledge and broaden their scientific horizons.

“We need to take education very seriously and to view maths and science as the most important subjects. You need to be disciplined and work to achieve your goals. We are looking to you as future leaders to correct our past mistakes,” he said.

Special prize-winners included:

Eskom Award for the best project by a female participant – Nicole Oyetunji, Victoria Girls’ High School – ‘Can diluted salt water increase antioxidant levels in tomatoes?’

Eskom Award for the best project by a development participant – Ntsikelelo Charles, Ntsika Secondary School – ‘Investigating cheap, accessible and non harmful ways to recycle grey water for crop irrigation’.

Grasslands Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) Award – Best Grassland Science Project: Christopher Matthews and Joshua Thorbum, Kingswood College – ‘The effect of Nitrogen fertilizer on Kikuyu’.

Wildlife and Environmental Society of Southern Africa (WESSA) Award - Jessie Price, Port Alfred High School – ‘R? (Reduce, Recycle, Re-use, Rehabilitate)’.

Wildlife and Environmental Society of Southern Africa (WESSA) best development project  – Ntsikelelo Charles, Ntsika Secondary School – ‘Investigating cheap, accessible and non harmful ways to recycle grey water for crop irrigation’.

South African Environment Observation Network (SAEON) Special Award – Sophakama Zabo, Nombulelo Senior Secondary School – ‘Caring for weather’.

Rhodes University has hosted and sponsored bursaries (one year’s tuition for a BSc degree) for more than 10 years. Most of the judges were Rhodes University staff members and students. The university also sponsored facilities and catering for the day. 

According to Mrs Joyce Sewry, moderator and lecturer in the Chemistry Department at Rhodes University, Rhodes University’s involvement is evidence of its commitment to investing in quality science and technology education in South Africa.

“Rhodes’ involvement is beneficial because it gets learners (prospective students) on to campus to get a feel for Rhodes, and encourages them to do science. Hopefully this will encourage students to consider science as a direction for studying after school,” she said.

By Sarah-Jane Bradfield

Photo by Stephen Penney