Minister highlights role of science education in sustainable development

Eastern Cape learners attended the launch of the 2017 National Science Week (NSW) at the newly renamed Nelson Mandela University (previously the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University). Hosted at the institution’s Missionvale campus, about 3500 learners from schools in and around Port Elizabeth attended the annual event.

Addressing learners, the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, urged them to change South Africa’s future by pursuing mathematics and science. The minister reminded learners that under apartheid black people were discouraged from doing mathematics and science, and this had put them at a disadvantage. The minister said that now was the time for learners to make use of the opportunities that are available and help the country achieve goals such as a greener and more sustainable economy.

She also said that South Africa is working towards the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations in step with many other countries. The National Sustainable Development Strategy, which was adopted in November 2011, calls for a green economy that is resource-efficient, low-carbon and pro-employment. The promotion and growth of green technologies are very important as they have the potential to create jobs and grow the economy, improve rural livelihoods, conserve natural resources and reduce pollution.

This year National Science Week ran until 12 August 2017, under the theme “Advancing Science Tourism”. This gave government an opportunity to highlight its investment in the development of research infrastructures such as the Square Kilometre Array, science centres, laboratories and pilot plants that enable the translation of research into solid scientific outputs such as intellectual property, among others.

Science education research shows that learners’ interest in science is boosted by excursions to scientific sites such as botanical gardens, zoos, museums and science centres. Visits to such places provide learners with alternatives and practical explanations of some curriculum concepts, improving learners’ understanding in that regard. It is in this context that the Department of Science and Technology supports 34 science centres in the country.

The Nelson Mandela University’s vice-chancellor, Prof. Derrick Swartz, added that the country’s poverty and inequality challenges could change through learning of science and mathematics. He challenged high school learners to strive to use their scientific knowledge to uplift society, such as improving the quality of health services and use technology to improve schools in their areas without harming the environment.

Contact Veronica Mohapeloa, Department of Science and Technology, Tel 012 843-6788, veronica.mohapeloa@dst.gov.za

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