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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

‘They thought Saps was only about chasing criminals’: School children get view on science and tech jobs

High school pupils were exposed to career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

Hundreds of high school pupils gathered in Sasolburg recently for the annual Sasol Techno X career expo.

The five-day event exposed high school pupils to career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and innovation (STEAMI) – through an immersive, hands-on experience.

The hybrid event gave pupils the opportunity to engage with over 40 STEAMI exhibitors, attend talks and interactive demonstrations, while exploring the latest technological advancements and possible career paths.

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Science x human touch

Speaking at the exhibition, Sasol’s social impact vice president, Gao Mothogae, said TechnoX hopes to inspire innovation among high school pupils.

Mothogae also said solutions to the world’s challenges should be more than just technological.

“The complex social, economic and environmental challenges our world faces don’t only need technical solutions, but an approach that integrates empathy, creativity and human judgement,” said Mothogae.

Sasol Social Impact Vice President Gao Mothoagae speaking at TechnoX exhibition in Sasolburg. Picture: Supplied.

Organisations from different sectors showcased their work to pupils through experiments and practical presentations, hoping to entice them to consider pursuing STEAMI careers.

‘Making science relatable’

Although most exhibitors’ participated out of passion for their industries, their work was also rewarded.

Boitjhorisong Resource Centre was identified as the ‘community outreach champion’.

Spokesperson Thami Mphokela said their presentation entailed conducting scientific experiments using “everyday” household items to show practically that “science can be done at home”.

The math and science support organisation wants to “demystify” the notion of “science as a difficult subject”, Mphokela told The Citizen.

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Inclusivity matters

Social impact catalyst award-recipient, Sci-Bono, took the children through a futuristic, robotic display and a series of chemical combustion experiments.

Sci-Bono’s education officer for in-reach and outreach services, Xolane Nameka, said the organisation’s experiments were aimed at making science relatable.

“We can’t shape the future without shaping the minds of learners first,” he told The Citizen.

Concerned about inclusivity in various fields of science and technology, Nameka posed a challenge to other organisations, saying pupils with disabilities should not be left behind.

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Students engaging with Sasol exhibitors at TechnoX. Picture: Supplied.

Keeping pupils interested

A life sciences and technology teacher from Pele ya Pele Secondary School, Mqapheliseni Mthembu, said attending Techno X had improved the way he tackles science experiments, helping to make teaching more interactive and keeping pupils interested.

“Learners won’t be getting bored anymore,” he told The Citizen.                                

Mthembu also said he was grateful the children were exposed to endless career possibilities.

The teacher said his students were surprised to find out there are science careers in the South African Police Services (Saps), such as forensics.

“They thought Saps was only about chasing criminals,” said Mthembu.

During his speech on day two of the exhibition, Deputy Minister of Higher Education Buti Manamela said STEAMI disciplines have the potential to change the world.

“We should not have limits to our dreams… it is only if we remove barriers that we can be able to achieve, innovate, create and build a better country,” he said.

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4IR and skills shortages

Career expos bring attention to SA’s skills shortages, especially within the media, information and communication technologies (MICT) sector.

According to the 2022 Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) and IITPSA (Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa ICT Skills Survey report, the Covid-19 pandemic led to rapid digital transformation and upward improvements in the IT industry.

The report also listed the top 10 MICT sectoral priority occupations:

  • Software developer
  • Computer network and systems engineer
  • ICT systems analyst
  • Management consultant (business analyst)
  • ICT security specialist
  • Multimedia specialist
  • Programmer analyst
  • Developer programmer
  • ICT project manager
  • ICT sales representatives

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