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Omphile sets out to further science education in the arid lands

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Omphile Khutsoane - the driving force behind the Arid Land Node’s environmental education outreach programme

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Omphile tells learners more about exciting career paths in environmental science during a career expo in the Northern Cape Province

Since joining SAEON’s Arid Lands Node as an intern early in 2014, Omphile Khutsoane has been very active in planning and initiating the node’s science education outreach programme, which is aimed at bringing active science closer to learners and educators.

To this end, she has designed, produced and distributed appropriate educational material in both hard copy and electronic formats, which has been well received by learners and educators alike.

Omphile was appointed as the node’s education officer in November 2014. Over and above her involvement in the education outreach programme, the versatile young education officer provides administrative assistance to node staff.

The journey begins ...

After qualifying with a National Diploma in Nature Conservation at the Tshwane University of Technology, Omphile pursued her studies at the Mangosuthu University of Technology with a B-Tech in Nature Conservation. She is currently enrolled for a postgraduate diploma in Nature Conservation, majoring in Conservation Ecology.

In 2010, she worked as an intern at South African National Parks (SANParks). Based at Golden Gate Highlands National Park, she gained extensive experience in environmental education. Since then she has been involved with various environmental organisations such as Ushaka Marine World in KwaZulu-Natal, where she interacted with visitors to the aquarium by coordinating interpretation of the marine environment and disseminating information.

Her passion for community involvement and young people in particular, has inspired her to work for a couple of leading environmental entities such as Klapperkop Nature Reserve and Magoebaskloof Adventures.

What the future holds

"Joining the SAEON team in the Arid Lands Node feels like a calling," Omphile says. "I’ve been yearning for a challenging role and a chance to prove to young people that science is fun and fabulous, let alone fantastic to be involved in."

Over the past year Omphile has expanded the node’s education outreach programme and hopes to merge her experience in Environmental Interpretative Education with the groundbreaking work that the node is doing to further science education in South Africa

Inspiring the next generation of scientists

"Most young people have a natural curiosity about the world around them, and many enjoy science from an early age; the hard part has always been to keep them interested in science as they progress through school," Omphile explains, adding that hands-on, fun and interactive science education seems to be the most effective way to spark young people’s interest in science careers.

"Helping learners build a strong foundation in science at an early age means that they are better prepared and equipped if they choose to pursue a career in one of the sciences," she notes.

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