Schools’ science challenge

Nerina Primary School teams Miguel Voight, 12, Chanielle Jantjies, 12, Ra-eeshah Fredericks, 12, and Leah Martin, 12.

Nineteen schools competed in a maths and science challenge at Cape Town High School on Saturday May 5.

The competition, run by NPO Leisure Education Trust, was to encourage children to have fun while doing maths and science.

However, there was a bigger plan for the children, as the competition was also used as one of the trust’s means to identify academically capable children and offer them scholarships for the rest of their schooling careers.

The Leisure Education Trust provides educational opportunities for needy and academically capable pupils from around the city by offering them scholarships and mentoring them during their academic careers.

The managing trustee, Ed Chandler, who runs the competition, which is in its second year, said 25 schools, who predominantly service needy communities, were invited to enter the competition.

Of the 25, 19 schools entered the free competition.

The participating primary schools were Chapel Street, Holy Cross, Mountain Road, Observatory Junior and St Agnes Convent from Woodstock; Holy Cross, Zonnebloem Girls, Zonnebloem Boys’, and Rahmaniyah from the District Six area; Prestwich, Tamboerskloof and Good Hope Seminary from the City Bowl; HJ Kroneberg, Fractreton, Koeberg Road and Wingfield from Kensington; Floreat from Retreat, Nerina from Bonteheuwel; and Thornton Primary School.

“The aim of the competition is to provide needy or impoverished children with a maths and science opportunity where they can compete as equals. This is to give them a fair chance to showcase their maths and science skills.”

Mr Chandler said the schools selected four pupils from Grade 7 to work as a team to complete tasks on the day of the competition.

The participants were required to do a pre-challenge presentation before they started their tasks for the day. The tests were then assessed by four independent markers and the highest scoring school took first prize for the day.

He said the tasks were set up by the trust, and children were required to use their schooling to complete them.

“The tasks cover a wide array of mathematics and science-orientated subjects, touching on the water crisis as well, which is very relevant.”

He said last year, only nine schools took part, and the goal is to have all 25 schools which are invited to participate in the competition.

Chapel Street pupil Ciara Tangwing, 12, said she and her team had been doing well and were fighting to win.

Su-ad Salie from Tamboerskloof, 13, said the competition was stressful.

“For the entrance test we had to submit essays, which wasn’t so bad. We just hope that we have enough time to finish all the tasks.”

Mogamat Van der Skyf, 12, from Mountain Road Primary School, said the experience was stressful. “If you know the work it is fine, but it has been a very enlightening experience.”

Miguel Voight, 12, from Nerina Primary School, said he was nervous as he didn’t know what to expect. “Although I’m nervous, I am very excited to have this opportunity. I will get a good academic reputation, and because we are not as privileged, it will be a struggle for my high school fees, so this is a good opportunity for me.”

“The whole idea is to help children improve despite their circumstances,” added Mr Chandler.

At the end of the day, Tamboerskloof Primary School took first prize and walked away with tablets, head phones and vouchers.

Good Hope Seminary Junior School took second place, Mountain Road Primary school took third place, Prestwich Primary came in fourth place, Wingfield in fifth and Floreat Primary School was sixth.

Each child walked away with a scientific calculator.

Mr Chandler said prizes are not given to the school, but to the children. “They are also given certificates afterwards which are sent to the school. The idea is at one assembly, the participating pupils are given the certificates and are recognised for their work.”

Emile Paul van Rooi, the chairman of the Leisure Education Trust Alumni, said he joined the programme when he was in Grade 6 at Montevideo Primary School. “My Grade 7 teacher put my name down for the aptitude test, so I got a good enough mark and they came to speak to my parents about a scholarship.”

He said the scholarship was then handed over to StatPro, who paid for the rest of his schooling and tertiary education after he had decided to study Medical Bioscience at UCT.

“The Leisure Education Trust was my chance in life. My parents definitely wouldn’t have been able to send me anywhere. They pushed me through everything, so I came back as part of the alumni and I assist where I can.”

He said over the years, he had watched children improve after they joined the trust.

“The pupils gain confidence. The programme has workshops which has you doing speeches and talking to your sponsors and they basically force you to grow. Children whose potential are identified from the forefront are guided throughout their schooling career – Ed (Chandler) has been my mentor for the past 12 years.”

Dietrich Baron, assistant manager of the Leisure Trust, said they currently mentor 196 children.

“We identify children via an aptitude test that we do at various schools in different communities, and we then offer them scholarships. “We try to keep that talent in the communities and give them spaces in schools which are doing well in that area. At Spine Road High School in Mitchell’s Plain, we have 15 pupils in the programme. We try to upskill those communities by keeping the talent there.”

He said the children are mentored at CPUT Mowbray Campus, where they hold various workshops and mentorship programmes. He said children are often taken at Grade 7 level, but if a pupil who is in a higher grade is identified and their parents are struggling to pay fees, they assist the pupil as far as they can. The competition will become an annual event.