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National Science Week 2014

School pupils encouraged during the National Science Week at UWC to take up Science

An estimated 250 grade 11 and 12 Science students gathered at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) Life Science Auditorium on Saturday, 2 August to listen to professionals in the science profession.

The day marked the start of National Science Week, which is a national call from 2-9 August initiated by the Department of Science and Technology, and aimed at encouraging pupils to take up Science and Mathematics at school, which will help them discover the environment and things around them.

UWC Rector, Professor Brian O’Connell, welcomed the students by saying that science is a way of learning new things, and that many things, including the knowledge the world has about things like   HIV/AIDS, wouldn’t have been possible had we not had science or scientists.

Students from surrounding areas in the Western Cape attended the event with guest speakers including Professor Michael Coleman who is the Dean of Natural Sciences at UWC, and Professor Cyril Julie who is the NRF/ First Rand Foundation Research chair in Maths Education at UWC.

Professor Coleman told the students that the Ocean is more than just a source of protein, because it can help produce anti cancer drugs like Mandelalide A which targets lung cancer - the drug which was discovered in South Africa and named after the global icon, Nelson Mandela.

The professor said that being a scientist not only requires one to wear a white coat and sit in the laboratory all day, but one can be marine scientists and look for new drugs to test.

He maintained that there is a need for marine scientists and that most of Natural Sciences’ anti-cancer drugs were discovered at Algoa Bay in Port Elizabeth, and later tested at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.

“There are 300 different kinds of cancers, which means that we need to make more discoveries regarding anti-cancer drugs, and that is why we need more scientists in our country”, he told the students.

Wrapping things up, Professor Cyril Julie convinced the students that Maths is not that difficult with regular practicing and commitment, “ It is not only the teachers responsibility to make Maths interesting and fun -  it is up to you,” he added.

National Science week is in its 15th year and attracts thousands of learners nationwide to workshops, science shows and exhibitions at universities focusing on science and mathematics.