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My journey with SAEON

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Thembelihle (front) tells a group of learners at the SAEON science camp more about science in a marine context.

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Thembelihle performs a dissolved oxygen analysis. (Picture: Baxolele Mdokwana)

By Thembelihle Mlokoti, former DST/NRF Intern at the SAEON Egagasini Node

My remarkable journey began in July 2012, when I was appointed as an environmental education intern at the SAEON Egagasini Node.

As a student who had just graduated, I was eager to gain experience in the workplace. Although I was briefed beforehand about what the internship would entail, I was uncertain what to expect from my new work environment. The warm welcome I received from the SAEON staff members soon made the workplace “a home away from home”.

My role was to work with learners in grades 9-11, encouraging them to understand science skills in a marine context, organising activities, and interacting with learners and educators in an effort to create awareness and develop interest in science as a school subject.

I worked with learners in so many ways - conducting lessons, taking part in awareness campaigns and hands-on activities and supporting them in their projects for the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. I attended the Eskom Expo competitions where I witnessed the learners’ fascinating and original scientific ideas. I saw potential future scientists and innovators in the making.

Gough Island relief cruise

In addition, I had an opportunity to participate in the Gough Island relief cruise of the Department of Environmental Affairs, collecting physio-chemical oceanographic data and analysing samples.

I presented a lecture at the Marine and Coastal Educators Network’s regional and national conferences on an evaluation of the integration of marine sciences into schools programmes. I also participated in the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Open Day, National Marine Week as well as other awareness programmes.

Skills and know-how to shape my future career

The internship not only served to develop the learners’ skills, but my own professional and personal skills as well – including research, presentation, communication and writing skills. I had opportunities to visit places I could not even have dreamt of. In the process I have been indirectly taught to work independently, and to value integrity, punctuality and morality. The internship helped me discover myself, my abilities and capabilities, my weaknesses and strengths, my passions and my interests. It also inspired me to further my studies and gave me the know-how to shape my future career.

My journey with SAEON ended on a high note. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation for the opportunity, to my host - the SAEON Egagasini Node - for the wonderful experience, to my manager, Dr Juliet Hermes and my mentor, Thomas Mtontsi for all they have taught me, and to the SAEON staff for making it a wonderful stay.

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Thembelihle (front row, right) with her mentor Thomas Mtontsi (front) and the Masiphumelele High School educator and monitoring team.

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