ASSAf celebrating the role of basic sciences in the modern world – National Science Week (NSW) 2022

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) celebrated the NSW 2022 with a series of engagements at the Sisizakele Special School, Ingwavuma and Mandla Mthethwa School of Excellence, Ndumo in KwaZulu-Natal from 1 to 4 August 2022.

The NSW was launched on 30 July 2022 and ran from 1 to 6 August 2022.  Keeping up with the practice of recognising the United Nations (UN) international observances, the NSW 2022 incorporated activities to celebrate the UN’s International Year of Basic Sciences 2022. 

The discussions included sessions on mathematics, access to clean water and sanitation, resilience and digital wellness. The ASSAf team, comprising of Susan Veldsman, Melusi Thwala, Ina Smith and Raj Mahabeer, was joined virtually by experts in these fields addressing eight schools – some 900 learners.

Numbers in the last 5,000 years and numbers in your lives was the topic addressed by Toni Beardon, Founder and Former Director (now retired), University of Cambridge NRICH/MMP & Founder and Chair African Institute for Mathematical Sciences Schools Enrichment Centre (AIMSSEC) and Tejumade Ogundipe, IT Coordinator and Mathematics Lecturer, AIMSSEC.  The session took learners on a journey through 5000 years of discoveries and the sharing of new number knowledge. Learners had the opportunity to think about their own learning journeys in which they have learned mathematics. They compared their own learning journeys to the long journey that has been made by the human race.  

Recently Durban and surrounding regions in KwaZulu-Natal have experienced catastrophic flooding that resulted in the loss of life, property and damage to crucial infrastructure. The irony is that after the torrential rainfall many are now without access to water due to the damage to already ageing infrastructure. In many areas residents had no access to water for several weeks. Restriction to water is becoming the norm and water-shedding has been drafted and implemented in hard hit regions. The session on Access to Water and Sanitation Services: Floods and Droughts linked to Climate Change gave learners the opportunity to discuss access to water, the challenges being faced when having too much or too little water, the pollution of water and possible solutions to address challenges faced within their immeditate environment. The learners were addressed by Dr Ramontsheng Rapolaki, Researcher, Agrometeorology, Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and Dr Pearl Gola, Ecological Infrastructure Coordinator: Greater uMngeni Catchment: SANBI.

Digital wellness and the 7 C’s of resillience were placed under the spotlight by Be In Touch (  and the Ma’at Institute ( respectively. The Ma’at Institute team comprised of Dr Nontobeko Buthelezi, Ma’at Institute Project Manager, Zamansele Nsele, Social worker and Ma’at Institute Project Coordinator, and Sthembiso Phoswa, Social Worker and Mentor.

The Ma’at Institute shared and discussed the 7 C’s of resilience with learners, namely competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control. Through becoming resilient we learn how to process and overcome hardship. If not resilient, we get overwhelmed easily which might result in us adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms. It is our responsibility as adults to help develop learners and make sure they have the necessary skills to overcome challenges and other difficulties in a healthy way – whether it is virus outbreaks, climate change, or anything else.

Be In Touch created more awareness on cyberbullying: what is is, how to recognise it, the negative effects it can have and psychological, emotional, and even physical dangers. Cyberbullying can cause anxiety, depression and other stress-related disorders in victims and bullies. In some cases this can lead to suicidal thoughts or suicide. This session taught learners how to remain healthy as far as technology concerns and what to do or where to find help when exposed to these.

The teachers and learners were most appreciative of ASSAf reaching out to these remote areas and were keen to learn and have access to more resources.

National Science Week (NSW) is an annual event aiming to exhibit and communicate awareness in science. It is an initiative of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), a countrywide celebration of science connecting various stakeholders and role players conducting science-based activities during the week, an annual celebration of the role and value of science and technology in people’s daily lives.

The NSW was established in 2000 and has developed over years towards national coverage. As the coordinator, NRF-SAASTA is responsible for the national coordination of the NSW through deployment of resources, reports and overall bringing together of the project.