HartRAO Home BEST logo

HartRAO Home > news > National Science Week at Mafikeng - 2006/05/15-19

National Science Week at Mafikeng - 2006/05/15-19

Daniel Mojalefa Moeketsi is a PhD student in the Space Geodesy Programme at HartRAO. However in May 2006 he took time off to be Project Leader for the Black Engineers and Scientists Trust (BEST) in bringing science and technology to learners in Mafeking. Exerpts from his report on the week follow.

National Science Week (NSW) promotes the greater awareness and appreciation of contribution that science and technology make to the nation. The Black Engineers and Scientists Trust (BEST) took part during the National Science Week 2006 (NSW6) on the 15th, 17th and 19th of May 2006 in Mafikeng area, sponsored by Department of Science and Technology (DST) and implemented by South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA). The activities were based on role modeling in science, engineering and technology (SET) careers, talks, and the role that SET plays in our daily life. The activities took place at the following sites: University of Northwest (Mafikeng Campus) Chris Hani Hall, Itsosemg Community Hall, and Mafikeng High School Hall.

More than 900 Grades 10-12 learners including educators from nine schools took part during the BEST NSW6 activities. The high schools selected were Boitsenape Technical, Letsatsing Science, Batswana, Baitshoki, Tswelelopele, Regolotswe, Mafikeng, Barolong, and Mmabatho respectively. Most of learners would not have attended the open day without some form of financial assistance as well as guidance into possible careers in Science Engineering and Technology. Learners felt privileged to have interacted with scientists and engineers from the same education background. They also suggested that they wish the project to be extended to reach learners from schools which did not participated in NSW6 activities so that they can be exposed to exciting opportunities that exist in SET fields, in order for them to be able to make better future career choices.

BEST conducted these activities in partnership with Northwest Department of Education (DoE), NASOU VIA AFRIKA, Northwest Department of Health (DOH), Department of Land Affairs (DLA), Post graduate students from HartRAO Space Geodesy Programme, and Students from Northwest University (Potchefstroom and Mafikeng Campuses) Faculty of Science and Engineering.

The official opening of the BEST NSW6 activity in Central Region, Mafikeng took place at Northwest University Mafikeng Campus (Chris Hani Hall) on Monday, 15 May 2006. All service providers were present including officials from NW DOE central region, and NW provincial DOE.


From the right: BEST National Education Portfolio Head (Mr. D.M. Moeketsi), BEST National Chairperson (Mr. Martin Modise) and officials from North West Department of Education together with other service providers and educators during the official opening of NSW 6 at NW University, Mafikeng campus.

The general purpose of the BEST NSW6 project was to expose the learners from a township schools into various exciting future career opportunities available in the SET fields and encourage and prepare them to consider challenging careers in these fields.

NSW6 was celebrated under the theme "Tomorrow's science and technology are in our youth hands". The main objectives of BEST activity were:

The activity was highly successful and learners could interact with students and experts and showed interest in considering future career in various SET fields. Motsweding FM radio interviewed two of BEST's leaders, Mr. M. Modise, Professional Chemical Engineering, BEST National Chairperson, and Mr. D. M. Moeketsi, PhD Space Physics Student at Rhodes University and HartRAO, BEST National Education Portfolio Head, about their careers in order to reach to general public, in particular for those learners whose schools did not take part during the NSW6.

Day 1: Official Opening

The official opening of the Mafikeng NSW6 took place on the 15th May 2006 at Northwest University Chris Hani hall. Grade 10 - 12 Learners from Letsatsing HS, Batswana HS and Boitseanape HS were transported to the venue. Officials from service provider BEST and its partners NASOU VIA AFRIKA, NW DoE and NW DOH were also present. The activity started with the opening speech by Mr Tlhabane from NW DoE. In his speech he reflected on the major effort undertaken by NW DoE in supporting the NWS6 activities and believed it is the first time DoE take part in this activity and will ensure that in future this project will be extended to reach all the regions. He also mentioned the current challenges facing the education system in producing quality Grade 12 mathematics and science learners particularly in public schools. One of his major concerns was the current statistics reflecting lack of black engineers, scientists and technologists in the country and applauded efforts undertaken by all service providers in promotion of SET, in particular NGO's such as BEST in ensuring greater awareness of SET in previously disadvantage communities.

BEST National Chairperson Mr. M. Modise also spoke as the service provider officially deployed in Mafikeng. He introduced BEST as a vehicle towards economic success using SET education. Key to his speech, Mr. Modise highlighted the problem of education mismatch with economic goals, especially relating to science and technology. He noted that unless our own people also start appreciating our own innovations and using them, creativity in science for us will not serve any purpose. Amongst his concerns were:

Amongst the remedies to problems posed in Mr. Modise's speech he suggested that:

Ms. K. Mkhize (Maths publisher, Nasou Via Afrika, BEST National Marketing Portfolio Head) gave a motivational speech on skills and attributes that contribute to a successful career as a scientist or engineer. In her speech, she made the point that "the country is in need of scientific and technological skills. This cannot be achieved overnight. A lot of commitment and hard work is expected on the side of the student." In particular, for a learner to be successful following career in SET the following skills are needed: Intellectual, Communication, Personality Characteristics and Habits of work. In her speech, she also gave a brief background about her company and maths and science books they publish, with emphasis on the mathematics book for Grade 11 of which BEST is the co-author (New Modern Graded Mathematics, Grade 11, Bopape et al. 2006). She recommended this book to be considered by most schools as it covers the content of the new curriculum. Due to the delay in producing the version of the latter prior the NWS6, BEST is still committed to donate one book for each school library that participated during NSW6 including the teacher's guide version of it as soon as the production is completed. Learners were very impressed by this speech.

The undergraduate and postgraduate SET students were given a podium to share their learning experience with Grade 10-12 maths and science learners. Learners were very fascinated to listen to students preparing them for exciting tertiary institution life and advising them about the difference between the school and university life (e.g. curriculum, teaching, workload, social life etc) and how challenging and exciting is career in science and engineering, particularly at Northwest University, Potchefstroom campus. Learners were also advised of existing bursary opportunities in these fields. Career brochures of NW University and Tshwane University of Technology were issued to the learners.

The programme proceeded with session on hot topic presentations:
BEST Free State Chairperson Mr Jafta Namo (Chemical Engineering, Wits) gave an informative talk about the impact of engineering and science in our lives today. His presentation, though showing how different disciplines of engineering and science merge towards a common goal, was mainly focused on mineral processing. This is because the North-West province is populated with mines and mineral processes. Some of the uses or final products of mineral processing mentioned are jewellery, catalytic converters for cleaner environment, artificial limbs in medicine. Learners were encouraged to take their subjects in Higher Grade at Grade 12 level in order to make it easy for them to enter the university level. The session ended on a high note with direct questions answered on their career(s) of interest.

Joel Botai (Scientist in Training, HartRAO) gave a presentation about "Astronomy - A science of the universe! What is this phenomenon? How does it work and evolve?" A brief introduction of Astronomy activities and observatories in South Africa was given, with particular attention to HartRAO and its science awareness programme. Learners and educators were very impressed about what astronomers do and would like to visit HartRAO science centre in future. Learners were allowed to interact with scientists and engineers during lunch break.


HartRAO / University of Pretoria PhD student Joel Ondego Botai surrounded by interested learners.

During lunch break, learners viewed posters, display and exhibitions. The Mmabatho college of nursing (Mmacon) under NW Department of Health presented exhibitions on careers in medical science targeted at the Grade 10 - 12 learners. Items explained to learners in groups were: Admission criteria for the four year Diploma, Information brochure, Learning and teaching resources e.g. reference books, 2 Doves and posters, trophies of learners who achieved/performed expectation in various disciplines and displays to show that hard work pays presented by Mmacom lectures and students.

Posters showing Astronomical objects (e.g. Stars, Planets etc.) and Space Science activities were also presented by students from HartRAO. Booklets describing HartRAO scientific activities were issued to participants and were encouraged to visit the science centre. Learners were given an opportunity to meet presenters in groups for further information on career guidance and clarity on presentations.

The day's programme ended a quiz based on the presentations and learners were also given opportunity to respond. Successful learners were awarded with career booklets, NSW6 T shirts, and T shirts from Mmacon. Mrs. Madumane (DoE) gave vote of thanks and closing speech of the NSW6 official opening in Mafikeng.

Day 2: Itsoseng Community Hall

The second day of NSW6 activities took place on the 17th May 2006 in Itsoseng community hall. The venue was within a walking distance from the schools, no transport was required for learners and educators. The Grade 10 -12 learners and educators from Baitshoki HS, Tswelelopele HS and Regolotswe HS attended the activity. It started with opening speech by Mr. S. Maletsoa (DoE) emphasizing the objectives of NSW and how important mathematics and science is in our daily life. Most of the activities were similar to the one for official opening in Mafikeng area. Mr. P. Moshodi (BEST) gave a motivational speech on SET career requirements. It followed by interactive talk by a science student sharing learning experience with learners preparing them for independent and interesting tertiary institution life.

For the session of hot topic presentations, Mr. Patrick Sophaza (Chemical Engineering) gave a talk on a career in engineering, in particular chemical engineering. In his talk, he shared his working experience with learners and mentioned the requirements to become successful in this field. He mentioned that career in engineering is rewarding and lots of challenging work opportunities exist different sectors in SA.

Mr. P. Strydom (DLA) gave presentation on Geographical Information System (GIS) awareness. In his presentation, he indicated application of GIS technology on various disciplines such as scientific investigations, resource management and development planning. For example, a GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster (e.g. Tsunami). He also mentioned the importance of Geography at Grade 12 for interesting career in GIS fields. There was a Quiz on GIS in general, and successful learners were awarded DLA T-Shirts for NSW6. During launch, learners interacted with scientists and engineers.

Sakia Madiseng

HartRAO / University of the Witwatersrand MSc student Sakia Madiseng talks about science at HartRAO and is pictured here with the Satelite Laser Ranger.

Mr Z. Madiseng (HartRAO, MSc Geophysics student at Wits) gave a presentation on the history of HartRAO from the early ages of space exploration to date and also a brief overview of science activities at HartRAO, namely Radio Astronomy, Space Geodesy and the Science Awareness programme. Science Awareness is the most active component, which hosts schools and public visits to demonstrate basic applications of science and technology. Visitors are normally from around Gauteng province and it was a good chance to inform learners in Mafikeng (who will hardly ever visit HartRAO) about astronomy and space science.


The activity for the day ended with a quiz on various presentations and learners were awarded T-Shirts and SET career booklets.

Day 3: Mmabatho High School Hall

The last day (19th May 2005) of BEST NSW6 activities took place at the Mafikeng HS Hall, Mafikeng. The Grade 10 -12 learners from invited schools (Mmabatho HS and Barolong HS) were transported to Mafikeng. The opening speech was given by Mr. Karagaratman (DOE Official) with the main emphasis on the theme of national science week and the challenges facing maths and science education in SA, particularly in public schools. He also mentioned that BEST has important role to play in contributing towards finding solutions to these problem. Awareness presentations similar to the one presented in Itsoseng comprised: (1) BSc (computer science student, Mr. Maboe) shared his learning experiences and (2) GIS awareness which was part of the hot topic. Next Mr Z. Madiseng (HartRAO, MSc Geophysics Student) gave an introduction to geophysics. Different geophysical techniques were discussed by showing examples of how they are used/applied in real life (for e.g. Oil and Gas exploration, in Mineral exploration and Public sectors). During lunch, learners interacted with scientists and engineers.

Mr. F. Mashinini (IT Specialist, BEST) gave a presentation on information technology (IT), the way of life. He showed various applications of IT in different discipline and also gave information about examples of open source software.

Mr. B. Khumalo (BEST deputy National Chairperson, Chemical Engineering) gave a presentation and exhibition on "Refinery Process as a core of South Africa Economy". The aim of his presentation was to provide a high level overview and exposure of refinery processes for targeted at Grade 10 -12 learners. Secondary objectives included various refinery products which are key to everyday life. The presentation was more graphical to ease scholar's understanding. The focus was on the origin of oil, South Africa crude oil sources, marketing demands and refinery processes. The following key refinery processes to refine crude oil were highlighted: Drilling and crude oil transportation, Distillation, Fluid Catalytic Cracking, Reforming, Polymerization, Thermal Cracking, and Treating Units.


The learners during the quiz based on the presentations. Learners were given T- Shirts for NSW6, SET career booklets, DLA T-Shirts, and information brochure.

Daniel Mojalefa Moeketsi

Daniel Mojalefa Moeketsi during his presentation on the Space Shuttle.

Mr. D.M. Moeketsi showed a DVD on the "Launch and landing of NASA Space Shuttle 2020", and explained carefully the science and technology of the rockets and further gave a motivational speech aimed at encouraging learners to consider career in SET fields, in particular space science and astronomy. The learners had opportunity to view the astronauts working inside the international space station. Moreover, in his speech, he emphasized the current dire need of Black space scientists and astronomers in the country and the effort undertaken by various institutions and government departments in adressing this problem. However, He mentioned that SA is heading towards establishment of Space Agency and this will require lots of SET expertise. Furthermore, it was also made clear that SA is becoming a host for most of international cutting edge scientific and technological projects which brings lots of opportunities for local scientists and engineers. The learners should be encouraged from the primary level to consider future career in SET in order to become part of the "new scientific and technological dispensation in SA". However, it is believed that with the advent of new school curriculum and proper implementation thereof in public schools will result in more quality Black scientists, engineers and technologist produced in the year 2030. A short history of SA involvement in international space science activities was also given, in particular with the current preparation toward the launch of Low Earth Orbit satellite by DST in December 2006. Finally, he ended be casting vote of thanks to DoE officials in helping with organising the activity, particularly by in forming the schools about BEST plan of action and to avail learners. Contributions from partners, stake holders, facilitators, presenters who spent sleepless nights preparing to make BEST NSW6 activity unequivocally successful were highly appreciated.

This outreach intervention reached 950 learners, 18 educators and 63 members of the public.

BEST Contact Information

Mr. M. Modise: BEST National Chairperson; e-mail address: