Address by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor MP, Gauteng launch of National Science Week, Sci-Enza Centre, University of Pretoria, 2 August 2010
2 Aug 2010
Prof. Cheryl de la Rey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Pretoria;
Prof. Robin Crewe and Prof. RA Mogotlane, Vice Principals of Pretoria;
Senior and other academics of the University;
Mrs Horak, Manager of the Sci-Enza Science Centre;
Lt-Gen Carlo Gagiano, Chief of the South African Air Force and other senior members of the South African Air Force present here;
Learners and educators;
Ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today.
Raising public awareness about science, engineering and technology, is one of the key priorities of my department and the science councils that report to it. However, promoting public awareness is as important. South Africa needs to train young scientists and the best place to find them is in our schools.
Of course, for the youth of today to become the scientists of tomorrow we need to foster awareness among learners of the various careers that are available in the world of science, engineering, technology and innovation.
To give you some understanding of the work that my department does in this regard, I would like to explain to you what National Science Week is all about.
The Department of Science and Technology is involved in various public awareness initiatives during the calendar year, but by far the most significant of them is National Science Week. My department collaborates with science councils, universities, science centres, and other government departments and agencies, with a view to exposing our youth to the world of science.
The National Science Week campaign is not exclusively a Department of Science and Technology undertaking.
We believe we can achieve more through partnerships than by working alone and so various stakeholders and role players in the national system of innovation take part in National Science Week.
We believe that this is what enriches National Science Week and makes it an invaluable public-awareness initiative.
During National Science Week we involve learners from all the provinces in activities that are aimed at exciting them, pricking their curiosity and exposing them to the wonders of science. We do this with the long-term view of attracting as many young people to careers in science, engineering and technology as possible.
To assist our efforts, we would like to encourage you to consider opening your laboratories and facilities to more of our young people.
Encourage them to visit and involve them in stimulating debates about various scientific topics. Give them user-friendly materials to arm them with the information they need about science so that they can make informed decisions when selecting a career.
Public awareness efforts really can make a difference. For example, with National Science Week we reach more than 200 000 individuals directly every year and reach in excess of a million people by means of radio and TV.
In addition to National Science Week, my department also has a framework for the support of science centres.
Sci-Enza is one of the many science centres that get annual support from my department. The latest addition to the centre is the Mirror Maze. I hope that visitors will find it as exciting to walk through as I did. It offers visitors an extraordinary experience and is the kind of facility that can help build a deeper appreciation for the role of science in society among our youth.
We believe science centres have a crucial role to play not just in facilitating partnerships, but also in strengthening grass-roots science awareness campaigns. This is particularly important for provinces such as the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga that unlike Gauteng and the Western Cape, for example, do not have the benefit of housing some of our country’s leading universities and research facilities.
The task of taking science to all corners of our country is a huge one that no single individual or organisation can carry out alone. If we are to sustain a national effort and achieve the desired results, we will need to deliberately forge quality strategic partnerships with key stakeholders, both within and outside our innovation system.
The collaboration we are giving recognition to here today should inspire us to pursue more collaboration of this kind.
The cooperation between the University of Pretoria, the staff of the science centre, the South African Air Force, the Air Force Museum, students, parents of students and even private companies involved in engineering and the servicing of jet fighters is a positive development from which we can all learn valuable lessons.
As I said earlier, the task of nurturing a passion for science, engineering and technology is huge.
In time we will see that through every individual and collective effort we will have contributed in a small but meaningful way to producing our country’s next generation of scientists, researchers, engineers, technologists and innovators.
In closing, I congratulate the individuals and organisations who were responsible for successfully establishing the Mirage F1 open-air exhibit.
I thank you
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
2 Aug 2010
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