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Where dreams come true: How the Ndlovu Node’s science camps support learners to realise their career aspirations

By Joe Sibiya, Education Officer, SAEON Ndlovu Node
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SAEON’s popular science camps aim to expose would-be scientists to hands-on science activities as well as opportunities to interact with scientists and researchers.

This serves to strengthen their scientific skills and knowledge and gives them a more realistic perception of science-related careers.

The career trajectories of these learners are tracked and monitored even after they’ve completed matric.

Gaynelle Makhubele, Ntwanano Mapfumari and Reply Maluleke took part in SAEON’s science camps in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. Earlier this year they informed Joe Sibiya, education officer at SAEON’s Ndlovu Node, of their academic achievements and acknowledged the significant role SAEON has played in their academic journey.

The medical doctor

Gaynelle Makhubele of Frans Du Toit High School’s matric class of 2009 has always been passionate about following a career in medicine. In those early days when Gaynelle was asked what career path she wished to follow, she replied with the utmost confidence, “With the abilities and talents I have, I’m planning to study medicine”.

When Joe got in touch with Gaynelle in January 2010 to congratulate her on her excellent matric results, he asked her whether she was still determined to pursue her dream of becoming a medical doctor. Gaynelle replied, “With these results the doors are open for me - it is my dream to be a medical doctor. I’ll be furthering my studies at the University of Cape Town”.

This dedicated young student has maintained contact with SAEON throughout her studies. “On 5 December 2015 Gaynelle’s mother came knocking at my house. In her hand was an invitation to Gaynelle’s graduation party,” says Joe.

Gaynelle’s dream of becoming a medical doctor came true on 19 December 2015 when she graduated from the University of Cape Town.

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Gaynelle presents her project at the Ndlovu Node’s Grade 11 science camp in 2008 (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

Dr Gaynelle Makhubele graduates from the University of Cape Town in December 2015

The scientist

During the 2009 grade 11 science camp, Ntwanano Mapfumari of Nkateko High School told the Nlovu Node Team that a career in medicine would be his first choice, followed by biological sciences and biochemistry as his second and third choices respectively.

In the beginning of 2011, Ntwanano informed Joe that he had been admitted to the University of Limpopo (Medunsa campus) to study towards a BSc in molecular and life sciences, but that a lack of funds was preventing him from studying towards his dream career. However, this did not deter this determined young man from achieving his career goals and his can-do attitude and determination saw him obtain his first degree and in 2014 graduate with an honours degree.

On 7 June 2016 Joe received an email from Ntwanano with some exciting news. He wrote, 'Attached is my first ever research article published in an international journal. I am sharing it with you because you played a significant role in me turning out to be the scientist I am today. I am still at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Ga-Rankuwa completing my MSc.’

Read Ntwanano’s research paper here

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Ntwanano Mapfumari presents his project at the 2009 grade 11 science camp (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

 

Dr Dave Thompson, Biodiversity Scientist at SAEON’s Ndlovu Node (right), shows the learners what to look for when analysing vegetation data. Is this where the foundation for Ntwanano Mapfumari’s (centre) research paper was laid? (Picture: Joe Sibiya)

The engineer

Twenty-one-year-old Reply Maluleke hails from Maseke village west of Phalaborwa town in Limpopo Province. He completed his secondary school education at Lepato High School in the neighbouring rural village of Makhushane.

In August 2010, Reply participated in SAEON’s first Grade 10 science camp at Shingwedzi research camp in the Kruger National Park. Despite being small in stature at the time, Reply did not let that deter him from taking on leading roles during the camps, such as presenting research reports on behalf of his group. The most memorable of these is his presentation to a panel of education experts in Phalaborwa in 2010 in which he informed them about his Grade 10 science camp experience.

Reply went on to participate in two further SAEON science camps held at the Tshulu Trust camp and in Port Elizabeth. His hard work and determination earned him a sponsorship that opened doors for him to study mine engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. His career trajectory is remarkable for a young man from a rural village… who will soon be graduating as a mine engineer.

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Education officer Joe Sibiya congratulates Reply Maluleke on winning an award during the grade 11 science camp held at the Tshulu Trust camp in July 2011

Reply Maluleke, currently a fourth-year mine engineering student at the University of the Witwatersrand                                                                                                                                     

SAEON gratefully acknowledges everyone who played a role in shaping the careers of these young upcoming professionals.

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