National Science Week kicked off today, with South Africa’s leading youth science magazine, Hip2B2, leading the charge in its quest to ‘nurture young minds to embrace science, technology and maths’.
General manager Cathryn Treasure said South Africa’s economic prosperity was reliant on students conquering the challenge of maths and science. But to do this, Treasure added, all South Africans must get involved.
“Inspired youth need to be matched with trained teachers and proper equipment and facilities, meaning government and South African business must each play their supportive roles and help to dispel the negative perceptions that young learners have about these subjects,” Treasure said.
HIP2B2 is hosting a national iTHINK Challenge, which is implemented across all nine provinces in conjunction with the South African Agency for Science and Technology (SAASTA). More than 10 000 learners, from Grades 8 to 11, will compete in the regional, semi final and final rounds participating in a variety of science and maths related tasks, riddles and problems in an ‘Amazing Race’ type competition.
HIP2B2 was established by entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth after his First African in Space venture in 2002 to inspire a behaviour change amongst learners in their choice of science and maths as Matric subjects. HIP2B2 promotes the study of science and maths as these subjects develop entrepreneurial skills and analytical thinking and problem-solving processes are naturally developed through these.
While Shuttleworth’s ongoing input into the building of the Hip2B2 brand and his motivational interaction with learners in the programme is priceless, Treasure is the one who turns the vision into a reality. “The potential for changing lives is unlimited,” says Treasure, who is putting a call out to business partners to join hands with HIP2B” and help make a difference. “The more buy-in we get from business South Africa, the more learners we can reach with our positive and empowering messages and continue making a difference where it’s needed, at school when learners decide whether or not to continue with the study of science and maths until Matric.”
Daily letters, e-mails , social media posts and text messages from learners to HIP2B” reveal that one of their greatest fears is not being able to find a job after they finish their studies. “This makes us even more adamant about encouraging the pursuit of maths and science, as these two subjects open the door to the world, providing a great many more career opportunities,” said Treasure.
Statistics reveal that while South Africa may have significantly higher unemployment than Western countries and was recently ranked 130 out of 139 countries in the 2010 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report on quality of education, it is not alone in its shortage of science and technology graduates and workers. In the U.K. Education Secretary Michael Gove has stated that all children should study maths until they are 18.
Other studies suggest that a career in science or technology is one of the best bets for job security and earnings. A recent U.S. Department of Commerce report about the importance of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math stated that even in the current sluggish economy, the unemployment rate for science and engineering degree holders was half the national rate. Just as dramatic, the report adds that graduates with these degrees make 26 percent more money overall than their counterparts in other fields.
Learners are responding to Hip2B2’s approach by switching on to maths and science in fruitful ways, according to Treasure, who cites budding inventor Thabang Modiba from rural Limpopo, as an example. Modiba didn’t let the absence of internet access stop him.
As a Grade 11 Seagotle High School learner, his engagement with Hip2B2 inspired him to become a Brand Ambassador. Modiba’s ambassadorship ultimately led Hip2B2 to help him set up a science club at his school and ensure that his efforts caught the attention of The Department of Education, who came to the party with science equipment for Modiba’s previously unequipped school.
“Stories like Thabang’s are deeply gratifying, and inspire us even more to assist every child in reaching for the stars,” said Treasure. “Having buy-in and support from business and government will ensure our continued success.”