Cape Town – Five matric pupils from 2020 will experience an opportunity of a lifetime later this month.
Basic Education Deputy Minister Dr Reginah Mhaule, this week delivered a congratulatory message and announced the five Grade 12 pupils who won a competition to go on an expedition to Antarctica with top South African scientists.
Interested pupils had to submit a short motivation on how they can be a positive environmental change agent.
Thousands of applications were worked through to select a top 100, followed by a top 50 and then a top 10.
Interviews were held with the top 10 after which the top five were selected.
Among those who were chosen was Ayakha Melithafa,18, of Eersterivier.
“I am hoping to learn more about innovative solutions to solve our climate crises and ways to implement them once we return to South Africa.
“We cannot only be part of the problem but the solution as well,” said Ayakha.
Ayakha, credits her support system for being selected.
“They truly are my backbone and encourage me every day to go after my dreams and not give up on my passion and that all I could ever wish for.
“Looking after the environment is essential for life because we may destroy it now but in the end nature wins.
“We may abuse it now but when the last tree is cut down and the atmosphere deteriorates we will be the ones that get extinct, nature will live on and thrive as we have seen in the past.
“So unless we want to be extinct we should really get our priorities straight and start doing what’s right,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kelby Barker, 18, from the Eastern Cape will also be jetting off to Antarctica.
Barker said she was honoured to be offered the opportunity and was determined to make full use of it.
“I am hoping to gain a better understanding of climate change and the impact it is having on Antarctica.
“I am also hoping to learn from the distinguished team accompanying us more on how to implement ideas and projects related to climate change, so that I can come back to South Africa and effectively share the knowledge with others, with the goal of motivating others to care for the environment,” she said.
Chief executive at the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, Maryke Musson, said this programme would focus on environmental education and enrichment, exploration and developing future leaders with a strong environmental ethos.
“They will have first-hand experience of the icy climate, with the ability to formulate research questions and participate in environmentally relevant investigations.
“They will learn about climate change and how to measure carbon emissions and calculate their own carbon footprint.
“They will come back with a much broader understanding of their impact on this world and how they can inspire their communities to work together to reduce their carbon footprint and in doing so create a better environment for all.
“They will also gain a network of supportive peers who share their passion in some way; hopefully friends and connections they can count on throughout their lives,” she said.
Pioneering explorer Riaan Manser, the brainchild behind this project, said: “This is a chance that most students in matric could only have dream of.
“Now these determined and smart five students will be rewarded for getting through a tough selection process. They will begin 2021 by setting foot on the most incredible of continents – Antarctica.”