Source: Department of Science and Technology
Title: Hanekom: Official opening of Sasol Scifest
Address by Deputy Minister of Science and Technology D Hanekom on behalf of the Minister of Science and Technology, the Honourable Mosibudi Mangena at the official opening of the Sasol Scifest 2007, Settlers National Monument, Grahamstown
Mayor of Makana Local Municipality, Cllr Pumelelo Kate
Chairperson of the Sasol SciFest National Advisory Committee, Dr Bob Day
Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Saleem Badat
Executive Director of the Grahamstown Foundation, Mr Alan Stephen
Group General Manager of Sasol Limited, Mr Bram de Klerk
Members of the Sasol SciFest National Advisory Committee;
Official representatives of the Embassies of Finland, France, the United Kingdom and United States of America
Representatives of Old Mutual and other official sponsors
Professor Bruce Hewitson of the University of Cape Town
Director, Mr Brian Wilmot and staff of Sasol SciFest
Presenters and contributors
Ladies and gentlemen
Sasol SciFest 2007 marks the 11th Anniversary of the launch of the project in 1997 - the first of its kind in southern Africa. Thus, a decade down the line, it is heartening to note that the festival now attracts some 40 000 visitors each year drawn from all over South Africa and its neighbouring states.
Accordingly, Sasol SciFest has become one of South Africa's premier programmes in the promotion of public awareness of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET). In close partnership with my department, Sasol SciFest continues to play a vital role in promoting the development of the much-needed culture of Science in South Africa.
While the achievement of this goal is by its very nature a slow process, it nonetheless underpins our national drive to produce more school-leavers suitably equipped to pursue careers in SET and thus strengthen South Africa's stake internationally.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the last decade we have seen a welcome emergence of science festivals across the globe, and with this emergence there has been a further facilitation of the necessary international outreach out of which South Africa has benefited immensely. For example, as we celebrate Sasol SciFest 2007, a new festival SciFest Finland is being launched in Joensuu, Finland. This project stems directly from Professor Erkki Sutinen of the University of Joensuu's visit to Sasol SciFest in 2004, and the subsequent visit of the Sasol SciFest Director to Finland in 2005 to guide the local organisers in their planning.
A strong possibility now exists that the next international outreach will be to Hamilton, New Zealand, with the launch of SciFest New Zealand taking place hopefully in 2009 while interest is being shown for SciFest to be replicated across our borders in Botswana.
Furthermore, following a visit to SciFest 2006, I understand a six-person delegation from the Beijing Association for Science and Technology in China is attending this SciFest 2007 to advance co-operation between the two organisations and the department. With Sasol SciFest on-the-road now annually reaching some 6 000 high school learners countrywide, our national outreach is also on the rise. In addition, Sasol SciFest is now a regular contributor to my department's National Science Week activities. Of further significance to us, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the highlights of this SciFest 2007, which include the following:
1. Sasol SciFest 2007 matches last year's festival as the biggest in the history of the project, with the 80-page official programme containing no less than 680 events and activities ranging from lectures, workshops, talk-shops and exhibitions to Science Olympics, field trips and tours, quizzes, apprenticeships and a Film Fest.
2. International contribution includes no less than 17 renowned scientists from five countries worldwide.
3. Strong South African representation includes all the major universities, many state departments, state-owned enterprises and private sector companies.
4. Lecture, talk-shop and workshop programmes that provide the opportunity to showcase not only a wide array of eminent South African Scientists, but also a growing number of successful upwardly mobile young black Scientists.
We are immensely proud of these SciFest 2007 features. Like the festival by-line, they make the undisputable statement that we have begun to make science count for both our country and its people. Indeed if there is any overarching goal that binds all of us here together, it is the fact that we share an interest in and a passionate concern for the public awareness of Science in South Africa.
Over the years, the SciFest has grown significantly in stature as well as in the number and calibre of its activities. This augers extremely well for us since increased Science awareness also increases the pool of the number of school learners choosing science, engineering and technology for their further studies. As already indicated, the intention of Science festivals is also to close the gap between Science learnt within formal settings and Science learned in non-formal settings. They promote science for non-scientists and through a creative and well-structured programme give those who attend the festivals a look into many different aspects of Science, Engineering and Technology. It is against this background that my department has developed, with the participation of Sasol SciFEST, a policy framework to support science festivals in South Africa.
More importantly for a developing country like ours, for over a decade this festival has foregrounded the central role of Science, Engineering and Technology in growing the national economy and uplifting our people while at the same time demonstrating our increasing competitiveness in the global market.
My department will thus continue to support the Sasol SciFest in order to promote co-ordination, synergy and complimentarity among science festivals as well as ensure links with other Science awareness interventions. We will continue in our responsibility to play an enabling and supporting role with the assistance of the corporate sector such as this event's sponsors.
Particularly, I have no doubt that Sasol SciFest 2007 will succeed beyond our expectations in achieving the critical goals of promoting Science and Technology literacy and encouraging more young people to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Let me conclude by acknowledging with thanks the contribution made by Sasol Limited and other sponsors, not least among them, Old Mutual, who have generously added their support to the event. I would like to further urge all of these contributors to continue and hopefully increase their support of Science festivals in the future. If our future and that of the rest of the world is dependent on a solid Science, Engineering and Technology base, then SciFest 2007 has helped us put our eyes firmly on the road ahead.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my singular pleasure to declare the Sasol SciFest 2007 officially open.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
23 March 2007
Entertainment Award Event