Maboni Mmatli

Yolanda Nkala and Kholiswa Ntshinga from Khayelitsha are young Science enthusiasts who won gold at the 2015 Annual Cape Town Eskom Expo for Young Scientists hosted at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The public is invited to meet the bright young minds of our country in this heated competition. The duo completed with 737 scholars from Grade 6 – 12 coming from 52 schools, submitting their projects in one of 24 categories ranging from Innovation, Energy, Medicine, Health, Engineering and others. Nkala and Ntshinga came victorious for their project on “Reducing mycotoxins in home grown maize (also known as uMbona in isiXhosa).

The project talks about and researches home grown maize that has been contaminated by a mycotoxin fungi. Such cases are common in rural communities where subsistence farmers are in abundance and threaten the livelihood of such farmers in that it reduces yield and subsequently, food security. Such mycotoxin fungi are that yellow-greenish powdery substance that appear on the seeds of our maize and render them unsafe for human consumption or even for future planting. The mentioned fungi is said to cause oesophageal cancer in rural men, in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

When asked what the motivation behind the chosen research for the project was, Kholiswa says “people who are affected mostly by this fungi are those who cannot afford to have their food contaminated as they are the poor rural dwellers relying on maize as a food source”. Because of the duo’s successful presentation, they were chosen to represent South Africa at the International Science Fair in Beijing last year (2016). There they won silver medals in the category of medical sciences and a special award for Innovation in Agriculture. At the time of the Expo, the duo were in the 11th grade but still managed to produce ground-breaking Science. This gets to prove that with STEMI competitions, young minds are stimulated and inspired to come up with innovation that are developmentally sustainable and can push the human species forward. With more platforms and competitions like this, and with society encouraging participation and engagement with Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation from the young, more inventions and solutions to problems can be cultivated and the country and the globe can benefit from such brilliant minds. “Eskom Young Scientists Expo is for people who are enthusiastic about finding solutions to today’s problem. It ignites a young boy’s and a girl’s passion for Science”, said Kholiswa when talking about the impact of the Eskom Expo.