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Pupil saves teachers with special chalk

A 13-year-old grade 7 pupil has developed a low-dust chalk, which could save teachers from catching respiratory diseases like asthma, using egg shells, toilet roll and flour.

Maluta Gcabashe of H.P Ngwenya Primary School in central KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the top pupils who took part in the 2019 Eskom Expo International Science Fair.

She received a gold medal for her chalk, which creates less dust than the regular chalk used by teachers in classrooms.

"Many schools in KwaZulu-Natal still use chalkboards and the chalk they use creates lots of dust, which can cause trouble for people with allergies. It also makes teachers untidy and as a result they end up losing respect from pupils.

"When I heard about the science fair from Umkhumbane School Project, I knew that I had to come up with an idea that will be help save my community," she said.

She added: "I went around my neighbourhood collecting egg shells and toilet rolls and I am very happy for the support I got. I am excited that I came up tops as this is a step closer to achieving my dreams of being a scientist one day."

She also won a laptop and a cash prize of R760.

"I am excited about my prizes because the laptop will help me when I go to high school next year. I will be able to do more research in it and the money will come in handy for my farewell. I will do a nice hairstyle and save the rest for next year," she said.

Martha Bishai, director of Umkhumbane, an NGO in the Durban area, said they offered the expo management a proposal to expand their mentoring to primary schools who had never been in the expo before.

"It was in this context that we selected Gcabashe to be in this year's group. She was recommended to us by her school," Bishai said.

She said they see the expo experience as a powerful context for giving pupils from disadvantaged schools an opportunity to gain a lot of new knowledge in a relatively short period of time.

"By being in our mentoring programme for the expo and shaping their own project and doing all the hard work involved, they gain skills in scientific method, in writing, public speaking, teamwork and problem solving," Bishai said.