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The Elwandle Node’s nurturing journey with a top young achiever

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Ntsikelelo Charles proudly displays his award for being the second top achiever in the Grahamstown district (Picture: Anele Mjekula, Grocotts Mail)

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Ntsikelelo Charles (left), Thabang Stofel (centre) and Thami Zono engrossed in vegetation studies during the SAEON Elwandle Node’s science camp for learners (Picture: Nozi Hambaze)

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Fellow SAEON learners Ekhona Ntloko (left) and Sophakama Zabo will be studying for a BSc in Geography and for a BSc in Information Systems respectively (Picture: Nozi Hambaze)

By Nozi Hambaze, Education Officer, SAEON Elwandle Node

SAEON’s education outreach programme focuses on in-depth engagement with learners, which translates to direct interaction with a carefully selected number of learners involved in the programme.

Participating learners are supported, tracked and monitored through the schooling system, and even beyond the school gate.

One such learner is Ntsikelelo Charles, who joined the Elwandle Coastal Node’s education programme in 2011 when he was still in grade 9. He was one of the SAEON learners participating in workshops during Scifest Africa, which is held annually in Grahamstown. Having shown keen interest in climate change, he was supported to attend a COP17 activity at Rhodes University in the same year.

In 2012, Ntsikelelo attended the Elwandle Node’s science camp for learners in grade 10, which was held in Assegaai Trails, an Eastern Cape nature reserve. It is in these camps that the foundation is laid for learners to conduct their own scientific research.

Achievements at Eskom Expo for Young Scientists

Interestingly, in 2013 the majority of science camp learners entered individual research projects into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. They were supported in their research by Elwandle Node staff members as well as Dr Ken Ngcoza and Ms Kuhlane of Rhodes University.

Ntsikelelo Charles was awarded a gold medal at the Eskom Expo Regional Science Fair, a Rhodes University bursary to study science, a Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) Best Development Project award and a silver medal at the Eskom Expo International Science Fair.

He is moreover a recipient of the prestigious Square Kilometre Array (SKA) bursary, only awarded to 10 science and technology students in South Africa each year.

Stellar matric results

In the matric examinations of 2014, Ntsikelelo scooped second place on the list of top achievers in the Grahamstown district. He was the top achiever in the district's previously disadvantaged schools, with 94% in Physics, 88% in Life Sciences and 82% in Maths.

This bright young talent will be studying towards a BSc at Rhodes University and has chosen Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science and Maths as his subjects.

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