In 2011, former Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price launched a school improvement initiative called the 100UP programme, a three-year enrichment initiative that aimed to address the low number of learners in Cape Town townships Western entering the University of Cape Town (UCT). This year, the program received a boost of R100,000 per year.
Retired Emeritus Professor Anwar Mall shone with pride after his keynote address to Year 10, 11 and 12 students at the Masiphumelele Township Library in Cape Town on Saturday October 8.
“I took this opportunity to talk to the learners about the gut and how the process of digesting food and expelling waste is very tumultuous and yet we benefit from a layer of mucus that aligns the whole body. ‘gut, lubricates everything that passes through and protects against disease,’ said Emeritus Professor Mall, whose research at UCT extolled the essential value of mucus.
He also gave a motivational speech referencing his own life and how as a youngster he had to deal with confusion, had anxiety about funding his higher education and choosing an undergraduate course for his first degree.
Many opportunities in the field of astronomy
UCT Astrophysics MSc candidate Moses Mlangeni spoke about the history and scientific developments of astronomy as well as the scale of the universe.
“My idea coming here was that I should inspire kids to get into astronomy, or at least science,” Mlangeni said.
“With the level of engagement I got from the learners, I would say I did the subject justice. They asked brilliant questions and showed a keen sense of curiosity.
He concluded his speech by examining the current state of astronomy in South Africa and the opportunities for budding astronomers.
Africa, a global player
Dr. Jade Gibson from the Department of African Studies and Linguistics gave the closing presentation which prompted learners to think deeply about the history of Africa and how the continent contributed to the global trading system before the impact of colonization.
“Africa was a global player before the colonization part of the story. Africa was very big compared to the Indian Ocean and the Silk Road. And we really don’t think about how much Africa was already in the world before any European contact,” Dr Gibson said.
“A lot of this speaks to the understanding of Africa’s relevance and importance to the world. Not just now, but in the future where in 30 years Africa will be big enough in the world.
Take the summer school off campus
The purpose of the Saturday Summer School in Masiphumelele was to expose learners to various subjects that could become a curriculum when they enroll.
“There is a bit of a career guidance aspect; telling learners about areas of study at UCT such as astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, history, biochemistry, etc. for extra-mural studies.
“This Saturday Summer School is the first summer school run in partnership with Peninsula Beverages who are donating R100,000 a year for three years to support Saturday Summer Schools for 100UP learners in particular, but also other groups such as IkamvaYouth.”
IkamvaYouth, a non-profit organization that runs an after-school tutoring program for high school students at the library.
Another non-profit organization called MasiCorp, with support from Peninsula Beverages and other donors, built the Masiphumelele Library in 2003.
IkamvaYouth’s Masiphumelele branch coordinator, Lungile Simakade, was pleased with the level of learner engagement.
“I grew up in the canton so I also know that I don’t know and lack information on certain subjects. The fact that learners asked thoughtful questions about content that most learners in the township would not be exposed to was amazing to me – from astronomy to the digestive system,” said an enthusiastic Simakade, expressing his wish to see the program run at least twice a year.
The learners were equally enthusiastic. Aviwe Zini (17) from Simonstown High School said: “It was a wonderful day and I really enjoyed the experience and knowledge about the importance of mucus in the human body.”
Thimna Khulu (16) from Masiphumelele High School said: ‘It was good to hear Professor Anwar Mall talk about how he was not the brightest student in school and how a book about Marie Curie changed his life. I really enjoyed the day and learned a lot about Africa and how much bigger the universe is than we think.