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From 02 to 06 August 2021, the University of Venda (UNIVEN) together with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), University of South Africa (UNISA), National Research Foundation (NRF), South African Agency for Science and Technology (SAASTA), Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) collaboratively held the 2021 National Science Week. The official opening of the 2021 National Science week was held on Microsoft Teams on Monday, 02 August 2021 under the theme ‘National Systems of innovation stakeholder’s role in white paper on Science, Technology and Innovation’. 

During the opening and introduction of plenary, Dr Vijay Reddy from HSRC said this is the first time the National Science Week is being hosted online since it was established. 

UNIVEN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni indicated that UNIVEN is grateful to be co-hosting this 2021 National Science Week. He said science has made a massive impact in everyone’s life. “It has changed the way we live and the way we work. Science and innovation are the key drivers for economic growth.” Dr Nthambeleni further mentioned that Research and Innovation assist to improve the lives and health of our people. “The National Science Week contributes to develop societies, more importantly, it brings and help demystify the myths about certain science related matters. We need to teach and demystify these myths.” He said this National Science Week will assist us to understand the role of science and its impact in our lives. 

“The National Science Week should bring awareness about what the country has achieved so far. It should also solve poverty, unemployment, and inequality in our communities. We need to communicate these sciences to ensure that even our community understands. People should be able to connect online everywhere in the country. People should not have to travel to certain areas to get network coverage. He said even students who are studying from home, attending online classes from rural areas should be able to connect without a struggle. Network coverage should be available everywhere.” 

Acting CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council, Prof Leickness Simbayi thanked SASTA for ensuring that the 2021 National Science Week is organised irrespective of difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic we live in. He said the aim of the National Science Week is to create enabling environments for all, to transform and bridge inequalities. “COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to invest the science skills. We need to push and ensure that South Africa competes in science at global arena because it is already a leading African country in science.” 

He concluded by mentioning that the HSRC encourages collaborations because through collaborations, there is so much work that can be achieved to help people improve their living conditions. 

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa from UNISA presented about Innovation, Technology and Commercialisation: A Science Week Imperative. Among others, she spoke about the significance of science week where she highlighted some of the reasons why it is important to have this National Science Week annually. She said this is to create awareness of the importance of science for socio-economic development progress. She highlighted that the National Science Week provides a platform for students to present and discuss their research across disciplines. “It affords an opportunity to understand the strategic major initiatives that the country is pursuing. It creates an opportunity to interact on issues relating to alternative knowledge production and ways of knowing. “ 

Ms Tandokazi Nquma-Moyo from TIA presented about TIA ‘s mandate, Vision and Mission. She said in terms of input and innovation capability, South Africa is ranked number 60 in the world and number 2 in Africa. “This means that South Africa is not doing too bad, and we need to sustain our country by improving our ways of doing things.” As she was speaking, she outlined TIA’s strategic roles in detail. 

Dr Mmboneni Muofhe from Department of Science and Innovation said everyone has grown as citizens of this world, and this is a proof enough that science improves our lives. “Taking a snapshot today is way too different from taking it in the 1960s. This is about raising awareness of science, informing the new generation and the whole of our population about the importance of the role of science.” He further highlighted that Science and Innovation are not only limited to documented scientists. “We have undocumented scientists; those are our indigenous knowledge systems by our ancestors and traditionalists. The traditional way we used to do farming in the 1960s were innovation by our undocumented scientists.” 

He mentioned that the word science means knowledge, it is not about engineering, not about technology but knowledge. “Scientific illiteracy is a huge global problem, therefore we need to reach even our rural communities when we spread knowledge, so that tomorrow we don’t experience challenges of illiteracy that we have today.’” 

Dr Palesa Sekhejane concluded the official opening of the National Science Week with a vote of thanks. 

Dr David Tinarwo

Dr David Tinarwo from UNIVEN introduced a Biogas Project documentary which was viewed by all attendees. 

Day two program was based on the Webinar discussion on ‘Perspective on how scholars perceive attitudes to science in policymaking in South Africa.’ The program was directed by Prof Nosisi Feza (DVC: Research and Postgraduate Studies, University of Venda). Several speakers presented their views based on the Indigenous knowledge systems, Vaccines landscapes and development, renewable energy, climate change, water resource and 4IR. The webinar discussion is in line with the current research focused on water-energy-food nexus concepts in South Africa and around the world. 

The speakers include: Adv Dr Pfarelo Matshidze (UNIVEN – IKS), Dr Palesa Sekhejane (HSRC – Vaccines landscape and development contestations), Prof Sampson Mamphweli (Stellenbosch University – Renewable Energy), Prof Keolebogile Motaung (DUT – Innovation), Prof Joel Botai (Weather SA – Climate change), Prof Sylvester Mpandeli (WRC – Water Resources), Dr Michael Gastrow (HSRC – 4IR), The day was concluded with the EXHIBITION: PYEI INTERNSHIP – HSRC. 

The PYEI programme at the HSRC was borne from the extensive COVID-19 socio-behavioural research that was undertaken by the HSC division in 2020. The research identified the need for social compacts and health promotion at a community level. The Presidential stimulus via the President’s Youth Employment Intervention gave the research team the opportunity to make the dream of health promotion at a local level, a reality, and the project kicked off in November 2020 with our recruitment drive to appoint 1000 unemployed graduates. The aim is that these 1000 graduates are trained and provided with experiential learning to improve their marketability in the labour environment and encourage social entrepreneurship. 

The program continued on day three which was done in collaboration with the University of South Africa. The topic for the webinar was titled ‘The importance of uncertainty in many scientific predictions; and the relevance of this to environmental controversies.’ Dr. Malebo Tibane directed the webinar of that day with different panellists including: Prof Mantile Lekala (Director, School of Science, UNISA), Dr Basetsana Ntsime/Dr Nozipho Gumbi (SoS Women in Science and Engineering, UNISA), Dr Wilfred Lunga (HSRC), Prof Gaotsiwe Rampho (CoD Physics, UNISA), Ms Gladys Magagula (Project Manager, SANSA Space Operations), Prof Simiso Dube (Acting Deputy Executive Dean, CSET, UNISA, and Prof Mmantsae Diale (SARCHI: Clean and Green Energy University of Prestoria). The program was concluded with the astronomy recorded exhibition. 

Day four of the 2021 NSW was based in collaboration with on the Technology Innovation Agency which is the national public entity that serves as the key institutional intervention to bridge the innovation chasm between research and development from higher education institutions. The topic of this webinar was titled ‘A perspective from women in technology and Innovation supported by local and global partners. The speakers were Mrs Tsholofelo Mokotedi (EW Seta: Executive Planning & Reporting), Ms Petro De Wet (UNIDO Gender Expert), Ms Lucy Moteka (TIA Programme Manager), Dr Jo-Ann (UCT, Innovation “GIFT” Genital Inflammation Test), Ms Mukundi Lambani (CEO “Ambani Africa”: Innovation Augmented reality app for African language learning), Ms Sandiswa Qayi (MD AET Africa Innovation, “Hotspot” Geyser Sleeve). 

Issue based on different innovation established by women in SA and worldwide were discussed. As it is a women’s month, speakers were women and motivation were done to motivate other women to start something which will help the communities and other women. 

One of the most important activities which was happening throughout the week was the community program where the University of Venda together with HSRC were showcasing the physics in my village documentary. The documentary is based on the biogas research work which is done in the Capricorn district municipality. The teams were running the community engagement aiming at establishing the public’s current understanding of biogas technologies and its value, creating awareness about the potential of biogas as a source, exploring community perceptions on how they can be engaged and participate in the project. 

The following communities were visited: Mokgalakwena, Maruleng and Ga-Phasha as part of community engagement and showcasing the documentation https://youtu.be/KK7NWtwzVKA . 

Issued by: 

Department of Marketing, Branding & Communication 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 /8710 

Date: 17 August 2021 

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