Malatji shares love for science with school pupils
Fear of failure - and hard work - is what spurs on a Mpumalanga doctoral student, who is sharing his love of science with young people in his province.
PhD student Peter Malatji, who runs a science project in his home village Seabe Village, Marapyane, inspires pupils in the area to look beyond their circumstances and to look to science to better their lives.
Malatji's love for science drove him to start a science project at his Seabe High School, where he matriculated in 1999.
"Many pupils do not know about science. They think it is a difficult subject. Science is fun and doable," he said.
Malatji, who is studying chemistry at the University of Cape Town, is working with six high schools in the area and hopes to increase the number of pupils who participate in his programme.
There are about 120 pupils taking part in the science project.
He said only 40 pupils from one school (Seabe) could be catered for in the science competition due to a lack of funds. In the competition pupils are given topics to investigate and then make their presentations.
"Going forward our plan is to take five top students from schools and put them in the programme," Malatji said.
Since Malatji is based in Cape Town, he relies on teachers and principals to ensure the smooth running of the programme.
"I try to focus on school work during the day (on weekdays), while in the afternoon I spend an extra two to three hours doing planning for my projects," the married father of a three-year-old boy said.
Though the number of participants was not what Malatji and sponsors Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) representatives had expected, they were happy with the work the pupils had done.
Malatji was particularly happy with Keletso Lebese, 15, whom he mentors and whose project won the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists regional competition.
The girl's project, called the Power Off, Hydro Lights On system, took second prize at provincial level. The invention is a backup plan that can be used as an electricity supply system when lights go out.
Next year, Malatji said, he would launch the Magaeng Developers for Science and Engineering, which is aimed at creating an enabling environment for pupils in rural areas to excel in science subjects so that they follow careers in science, engineering and technology.
RSC northern section chairman Ian Bratt commended Malatji for empowering pupils.
"We are going from strength to strength and we have Peter to thank for that. The competition this year was of a high standard," he said.
School principal Mmagomotswako Moagi said though the subject was challenging, they encouraged pupils to enrol in it.