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SAEON's symposium was 'awesome'

By Joe Sibiya, Science Engagement Officer, SAEON Ndlovu Node
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On 5 September the SAEON Ndlovu Node hosted the ninth Science Engagement Symposium at the Selati Hall in Phalaborwa, Limpopo.

The symposium is an annual event hosted on a rotational basis at various SAEON nodes around the country.

A highlight on the science engagement calendar, the event provides SAEON learners an opportunity and a platform to present their science research projects and share their learning experiences with various stakeholders. The symposium was preceded by a mini-exhibition that comprised environmental science demonstrations and hands-on activities led by the representatives of the four participating SAEON nodes, the National Office and the Bush Babies (an education outreach programme for Balule Nature Reserve).

Matima Ramashala and Itumeleng Malesa, both Frans Du Toit High School grade 11 learners, presented the Ndlovu Node science camp research projects on behalf of their groups. Boitumelo Hlungwane, a Baranuka Secondary School grade 11 learner, captivated the audience with a moving speech about her three-year journey as a SAEON Ndlovu Node science learner.

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Regina Lebeya (in floral dress) facilitates the Ndlovu Node’s African savanna ecosystem activity

Nozipiwo Hambaze from SAEON's Elwandle Coastal Node (right) tells the learners more about the coastal marine ecosystem

As a role model to current learners, former SAEON Ndlovu science camp participant Reply Maluleke gave a talk about his SAEON experiences as a learner, his academic life and his current job as a mining engineer at the local Phalaborwa mine. Sharing his future academic aspirations with the learners, he encouraged them to work hard and stay focused in order to realise their dreams.  

Reflections on the symposium

Following the resounding success of the event, the Ndlovu Node received this feedback from learners and an educator reflecting on the experience:

"Hi Mr Joe, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate the work you are doing with our learners. Now I understand the reasons behind the constant asking if I had received any information from SAEON concerning their meetings. The speeches by Reply and Boitumelo were a real motivation to learners and to me as an educator. The symposium was superb, actually. Thank you so much." - Sibongile Shibodze (educator)

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Boitumelo Hlungwane (second from left) captivated the audience with a moving speech about her three-year journey as a SAEON Ndlovu Node science learner

"The SAEON Symposium was a very great experience for us. The exhibition was an eye-opener career wise. We now even have a clue of our academic life after high school. The presentations on our science camp projects were nerve-wracking but enjoyable. At the end it was a great experience being exposed to public speaking and getting to answer questions from the audience." - Matima and Itumeleng, grade 11 learners

"I was told that I had to give a speech about my SAEON experiences at the symposium. A very difficult task, if you ask me. But the news stirred great excitement, I could not hide the joy of speaking my heart about SAEON science camp experiences. On the day I was a bit nervous at the thought of standing in front of people. Going through the different exhibitions first helped calm my nerves. The symposium began with project presentations by learners from the four nodes. Then it was time for me to ascend the stage to speak out of my heart. It felt so right to speak out loud about the greatness of SAEON and the opportunities it offers. I felt like I could say more about how SAEON is opening doors for us and how it is fulfilling our dreams. The screams and shouts from the audience were affirmation that the speech was well accepted, I want to believe. I wish that moment was ours to own it and that it would never end. So being at the symposium was a dream come true. Finally, I figured it out that all my dreams have no limitations." - Boitumelo Hlungwane

"The ecosystem game/activity taught us to take care of the environment (ecosystem) and not destroy species, because destroying one is destroying all. We enjoyed speaking to the scientists, especially the environmental scientists. We wish we could be the next ones to teach others." - Grade 9 learners Silence, Brooklyn and Kalmax

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Matima Ramashala (left) and Itumeleng Malesa respond to questions from the audience

"Through the symposium I obtained a lot of knowledge and experience; it was fun and challenging. I was inspired by the great scientists present and the work they do. And the speakers motivated me to work hard at my studies and to go get what I want most in life. Because with will and determination I can be absolutely anything.

"The SAEON members are elite, thanks to Mr Joe Sibiya the set-up was good and the delivery flawless. The learners presenting their projects planted a seed of greatness in my mind. And Boitumelo watered the seed with her great motivational speech and the words I will never forget - ‘the sky is not the limit but my imagination is’. The symposium was awesome." - Grade 10 learner Auswel Mandlazi

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