Rakashi Gosai, just 15, has pulled off a rare scientific feat.
The Western Cape teenager will represent South Africa in the international arena for conducting successful research on the effect of varying concentrations of different pollutants on aquatic life.
Gosai, a Grade 11 Vredenburg High School pupil, will jet out to Sweden this evening to represent South Africa among her peers from 30 countries. If she wins the Stockholm Junior Water Prize she will scoop a whopping R35000 in prize money.
She will be accompanied to Stockholm by Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Lindiwe Hendricks, and officials from her department.
Gosai's rise to success began in May when she walked off with first prize in the Western Cape version of the South African Youth Water Prize in Stellenbosch.
Gosai investigated Daphnia pulex, a type of "water flea" sensitive to poor water conditions and essential in many of the food chains necessary to sustain fish life, to see what effects oil, petrol, chlorine, detergents, sunlight, dishwashing liquid, pesticides and antifreeze agents have on it.
The results showed that the pollutants did indeed have a negative effect on the Daphnia pulex. The highest concentrations of pollutants were the most lethal to the Daphnia.
The information gained from this experiment will help raise awareness among the public about the extent to which pollution harms the environment.
The Stockholm International Water Institute administers the competition, which is sponsored globally by the ITT Corporation.
A science student, Gosai worked hard to overcome the language barriers in which she was suddenly thrust when her parents left KwaZulu-Natal for Vredenburg, a small conservative town near Vredendal. With the support of her parents she gained confidence and easily tackled her subjects, including maths and science, with incredible ease.
The project manager of the SA Youth Water Prize, Nomxolisi Matyana, is confident that Gosai stands a good chance of doing SA proud in Stockholm.