“USA, here we come!”

“USA, here we come!”


Maboni Mmatli | 07 October 2017

Tshwane: The National Research Foundation’s new auditorium was characterised by electrifying atmosphere when the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) hosted nine (9) schools from around the country (South Africa) to the SAASTA Debate finals. According to SAASTA, “the National Schools Debates competition aims to encourage young people to address key issues around Science and Technology that are faced by their communities, through the medium of debate”.

The competition started in regions and provinces and the winners of the provincial legs went on to represent their school and province against 8 other schools who were respective winners and representatives of their provinces. The 45 grade 9 – 11 learners debated against each other on a chosen title. For the purpose of this debate, they were given the title “Should South Africa increase its investments in the development of medical nanotechnology and will this benefit everyone in South Africa?”. The young bright minds debated the topic from four different perspective: Application and Benefit, Economic, Socio-cultural and Political. According to Zamuxolo Matiwane of SAASTA, “the contestants are only allowed to pre-prepare their opening statements but subsequently responses and closing speeches are prepared during”.

The audience was educationally entertained with different facts, figures, tactics and strategy from the young learners with intentions of emerging as winners. After rounds of rigorous debating, the learners broke away to mini Imbizos where they discussed different topics about medical nanotechnology. These mini meetings were then used to formulate the closing statement which were then presented in the last round. After an entertaining and educational engagement, the adjudicators made their deliberations and announced the winners as the following: Kimberly Girls High School (Northen Cape) in third place, Port Shepstone High School (Kwa-Zulu Natal) in second place and SJ Van Der Merwe Technical High School (Limpopo) were grand winners.

According to SAASTA, the learners from SJ Van Der Merwe will be travelling to the United States of America (USA) and will amongst other things, visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – an American federal agency responsible for aerospace research, aeronautics and civilian space program, a site visit to the Greenbank Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia; Smithsonian Museums, including the Air and Space Museum, in Washington, DC; and an internship at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Debate is a lively and valuable platform that makes scientific information relevant to learners; it’s the spark that can light the fire which fuels a lifelong quest for innovation. It is quite easy to be ignorant and have an opinion. It is much more difficult to be informed, well read and educated on a topic and to be able to distil this information into an argument and to then deliver this argument in a manner that everyone understands.  One also then needs to be open, wise and humble enough to hear other people arguments and possibly even adjust one’s own perspective based on these arguments,” said Michael Ellis, Manager of Science Communication for SAASTA.