“Who knew that science can be cool?” This was one of the many positive comments from Prestige College learners during a University of Pretoria (UP) and International Veterinary Vaccinology Network (IVVN) outreach programme that took place recently in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria.
A group of female scientists from the University of Pretoria, Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University and Uganda’s Makerere University visited the school to deliver the second phase of the IVVN African Schools Outreach Programme. The aim of this programme is to provide women scientists working in veterinary vaccinology across Africa with the training and resources (in the form of a mobile laboratory in a suitcase) to host schools outreach workshops in their local communities, with the overall goal of inspiring the next generation of scientists.
The workshop, designed by the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre from Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, was really hands-on, and the Grade 10 learners had the opportunity to micropipette and perform their own experiment similar to scientists working in laboratories across Africa. Students then had the opportunity to interact with the scientists.
One of the excited learners, Lesedi Hale, said, “My experience today was one I will never forget. I learned many things about science – a subject I thought was uninteresting. Now I am starting to question my career choices based on today’s demonstration. Who knew that science can be cool?”
Another Grade 10 learner, Buhle Mazibuko, echoed Hale’s sentiments. “Today was very informative. As a learner who is approaching university, such occasions help me to decide on what I want to be when I grow up and what I find interesting. I am very grateful for this scientific experience. I learnt a lot and I got many of my questions answered, and I think I might have even found my career.”
Professor Christine Maritz-Olivier from UP’s Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology is a leading researcher in the field of ticks and tick-borne diseases, and led the UP delegation. “Our scientists working on finding solutions for animal diseases are passionate about communicating our activities to our local communities,” she said. “This allows our school pupils and families to meet and greet the researchers from the University, get real practical exposure to what it means to be a scientist, and become excited about how science is striving to make our communities healthier. We are privileged to work with the IVVN from the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh (UK) to initiate the first roll-out of an exciting programme on communicating the science behind animal vaccination.”
Dr Carly Hamilton, IVVN Network Manager, emphasised the importance of this outreach. “The IVVN is committed to increasing the number of women working in the field of veterinary vaccinology across Africa. As part of our activities, the IVVN African Schools Outreach Programme provides training and resources for inspirational African scientists to host outreach workshops in schools within their local communities. We were delighted to host a training session at UP and hope the scientists’ new skills and resources will enable staff and students at UP to inspire the next generation of scientists across South Africa.”
After implementing the programme across schools in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia, the IVVN are expanding the programme to schools in South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia.
Follow the progress of the programme at @IntVetVaccNet #InspiringFutureScientists and www.up.ac.za
For enquiries regarding the IVVN African Schools Outreach Programme, please contact IVVN Network Manager Dr Carly Hamilton at [email protected], or Prof Christine Maritz-Olivier from the University of Pretoria at [email protected]