Young people who do amazing things

INNOVATOR: Ludwick Marishane, whose Dry Gel invention has received the attention of airlines and armies.
INNOVATOR: Ludwick Marishane, whose Dry Gel invention has received the attention of airlines and armies.

WHEN a US business and technology news website published a list of "the 14 most impressive students right now" at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it was indeed a brilliant list.

Zimbabwe's Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who has a PhD in robotics and mechatronics, once taught at MIT.

So when he said: "I went to Oxford - I taught at MIT, I'm a Rhodes scholar. I think it's fair to say that I know better than US President Barack Obama what is good for Zimbabwe," it is hard to come up with a retort.

Back to MIT and its list of young people who work hard and show as much dedication to their academic fields of study as they do to sport, leadership and community work.

Among those who made the Business Insider list is a brain and cognitive science student who wants to be a teacher and is researching ways children understand their world.

Wouldn't you want someone like her teaching your child?

Then there's the final-year economics student who didn't let his love of rowing end when he developed a blood clot in the brain that ended his athletic ambitions.

Instead he took up coaching and his team has won gold medals in the state championships.

Also on the list is a maths whizz kid who has won prestigious awards. Her ambition is to get more women interested in mathematics.

And then there's the chemical engineering and pre-medicine student who is researching a gel that can improve the flexibility of vocal chords.

Harvard University, on the other hand, has 22 "most impressive students this semester".

Among the Harvard students is a young woman who made a breakthrough in cancer while she was in high school.

Determined to help her grandfather, who had liver cancer, she experimented with the chemotherapy drug Cisplatin and made a breakthrough that has won her several awards and the attention of Obama.

Now a first-year student at Harvard, she plans to study molecular biology and then medicine.

In Harvard's list you'll find the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. And then there's a young final-year student from Zimbabwe, Dalumuzi Mhlanga, who has started a non-profit organisation back home to train young entrepreneurs.

In Singapore, the government established the DesignSingapore Council in 2003. The aim of the council is to develop Singapore into a global city in which design innovation drives economic growth and enhances the quality of life of citizens.

Some of the work the council does is captured in the quirky book Utterubbish: A Collection of UseLess Ideas, which is a collection of innovative and ecofriendly designs from different parts of the world.

The DesignSingapore Council section features innovations from their young designers that could be deployed when disaster strikes.

The young people came up with simple but practical ideas that could save lives in case of a disaster.

These include a Disaster Preparedness Garbage Bag that has information and a map of the evacuation areas in your city printed on it, a makeshift cardboard toilet and a biodegradable unit for the mass burial of corpses.

These are just some of the initiatives that highlight the importance of education, encourage the youth to explore their world using their talents and to create a nation that values its young talent.

I believe in South Africa we have our own "most impressive students right now".

I'm sure our universities have these young bright sparks who want to make a difference in our country. I'm sure we have students who are doing extraordinary things in their fields of study.

I know we have our own young innovators. Entrepreneur Ludwick Marishane, 22, invented the Dry Bath, a clear gel that is applied to the skin and gives the same result as soap and water. His product has received the attention of airlines and armies the world over.

Barely 16, Katleho Madikeng is already a community leader. The founder of Sisonke Entertainment could not bear to see his peers engaging in destructive behaviour in his township of Qwa-Qwa in Free State. So he decided to distract them with something positive by offering extra lessons and extramural activities every Saturday at his school.

These are two of our young people who do amazing things. Sadly, these youngsters don't get the attention, opportunities, assistance and nurturing they need to continue their wonderful work.

We need to have our own list of the "most impressive, inspirational, hard-working, resilient, innovative, successful, driven, selfless students".

These are the young people our townships should look up to for inspiration.

We need a design council in which young people can come up with ideas to make our country better.

These are the kinds of superstars who should inspire other youths.

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