15 January 2016
Five matriculants from the small rural town of Carnarvon who did particularly well in maths and science in their final National Senior Certificate exams at the end of 2015 are setting off for university in the coming days, armed with full bursaries from the Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA).
Carnarvon, in Northern Cape, is a remote town. It is the closest inhabited place to where the SKA SA radio telescope is being built. The global technology project, with operations in South Africa and Australia, is tasked with mapping the universe. It is an important addition to the town’s economy. Most of the construction is being done on-site and it is providing employment for the area’s citizens and a much- needed economic boost for the town.
The project has always strived to give back to the community for allowing the operation and its people to become part of the community, says Lorenzo Raynard, SKA SA communications manager. The bursary initiative, part of the SKA SA Human Capital Development Programme, was started in 2005 and already has helped more than 730 pupils to study in the science and engineering fields at tertiary institutions.
— SquareKilometreArray (@SKA_telescope) January 12, 2016
This year, five 2015 matriculants from the local Carnarvon High School have the opportunity to continue their studies in science-related fields thanks to bursaries offered through the programme.
The students – Anver Adams, Janethon de Klerk, Kyle Henderson, Cedwill Abdol and Bradley Bosman – all performed well in mathematics and physical science in their final exams, and want to study for Bachelor’s degrees in computer and data science, electrical engineering and physics at various universities around South Africa.
“Our goal is to ensure sustainability for the SKA and that site engineers be drawn from the local community,” SKA SA project director Dr Rob Adam said in a statement released on 8 January. “In turn (we want to) provide a way for local young people to achieve their dreams of greatness through science. (This is) the first time learners from the school with support from SKA SA, have obtained matric results with exemptions to further their studies in science related fields.”
Itumeleng Molefi, the physical science teacher at the school, cannot be more proud of his students’ achievements. He said some of the learners came from severely challenging backgrounds. “It is only through their own perseverance and determination that they have succeeded.”
The students, together with their teachers, as well as with some knowledge and assistance from SKA SA employees, made the effort and worked hard to pass their final exams in November and December 2015 and are now looking forward to starting their new learning journeys.
Bosman has applied to study for a Bachelor’s degree at the University of the Free State. He said he was glad he made the effort to persevere during the year. “It was very difficult at times because we did not have a science teacher in Grade 10. From Grade 11 onwards it was much easier after Mr Molefi joined the school.”
Abdol wants to excel in computer science, starting at the University of the Free State. “It is a great privilege for me to have this opportunity,” he said of his achievement. “I am thankful for all the support that I had. I would like to improve my circumstances and will do anything to achieve my dreams.”
Henderson was the 2015 head boy at Carnarvon High School, and will be a first year student at North West University this year, studying physics and mathematics. He made special mention of SKA SA in inspiring him to perform well, saying that “my matric year was made easier knowing that I had the support of SKA. (The reward of getting the bursary) motivated me to study harder and put in more effort. I am looking forward to my future because I know that I have excellent privileges and opportunities.”
De Klerk, the 2015 Carnarvon head girl, said she was incredibly motivated by the presence of SKA in the town, with its bursary opportunity inspiring her to work even harder for her university degree. “What you put in is what you will gain and I want to work much harder because I do not want to disappoint my sponsors and support team.” She hoped to start her Bachelor’s degree at the University of the Free State. She plans to study science, specialising in astronomy, which might mean she may find herself working with her bursary sponsor sometime in the future.
In addition to being a star player in the school’s first rugby team, Adams aced his final exams and now looks forward to going to the University of the Western Cape to start his science degree. “I knew that I had to put in all my effort and pass and the rest will be taken care of (by SKA SA). I am proud of my achievements and look forward to the future,” he said.
SKA SA is proud of the Carnarvon five’s success and determination, says Sam Rametse, the professional officer: schools and outreach for the SKA SA Human Capital Development Programme.
“We are reaping the benefits of appointing a science educator at Carnarvon High School who took the learners from Carnarvon and surrounding areas under his wing. It is due to his hard work that we see this success and we look forward to supporting the students in their further studies.”