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Matrics in Antarctica: Minister Schäfer wishes matrics well

27 January 2021

Ayakha Melithafa, from the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) in Khayelitsha, is one of five matric students from the class of 2020 who will leave Cape Town today on an all-expenses-paid educational adventure in Antarctica with pioneering explorer Riaan Manser and a team from Stellenbosch University. 

Having met with Mr Manser during the development of the trip and competition, I am so pleased that a learner from the Western Cape is going to be joining him for this experience.

The winners were chosen from more than 3 000 entries from across South Africa. To enter, matrics had to answer the question: “If saving nature and the environment is a world problem – how can YOU help? What can you do in your own hometown that you believe will make a positive impact on the planet and possibly Antarctica?”

The winners were announced on 11 January 2021. Ayakha will be joined by Cobus Burger from Hoërskool Duineveld in the Northern Cape, Boiketlo Lamula from Sedaven High School in Gauteng, Thea Earnest from Mountview Secondary School in KwaZulu Natal and Kelby Barker from Diocesan School for Girls in the Eastern Cape. They will fly out to Antarctica with the Antarctica Logistics Centre International (ALCI) and spend five days on the virtually uninhabited continent.

Ayakha is a climate justice activist and her entry focused on her work as a spokesperson for the African Climate Alliance. In 2020 she attended the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to urge world leaders to take drastic action in addressing the climate crisis. Next month, she will be inaugurated as a member of the Presidency’s Coordinating Committee on Climate Change. Like several learners at COSAT, she is part of Project 90 by 2030, a social and environmental justice organisation advocating for a sustainably developed and equitable low-carbon future. 

Phaldiela Cooper, principal of COSAT, said she is extremely proud of Ayakha whose resolute effort has been rewarded by her being chosen for this unique opportunity. “I am very happy that a learner from Khayelitsha can represent the Western Cape. She has been working very hard in the community to bring attention to the climate crisis and urge people to take care of the environment.”

Fadli Wagiet from Stellenbosch University said he was impressed with the calibre of the winners. In the week prior to their departure, the students were exposed to a holistic programme that focused on sustainability and alleviating poverty. “Through this programme, we want to develop future leaders who are ethical and have a passion to be part of change. We expect the students to plough back what they have learned in their communities and the projects that they are involved in. They are all very passionate about the environment and positive change. Our role is to facilitate and guide them.”

While in Antarctica, the students will do experiments and go on an overnight adventure camp. I have no doubt that the five matrics will learn valuable lessons not only about Antarctica and the scientific research being undertaken there, but also in personal development and character-building.

I spoke to Ayakhe yesterday to wish her well.  She is very excited and I hope to engage with her on her return to find out about her experiences. 

To follow their journey visit Matrics in Antarctica on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the Matrics in Antarctica website.

Media Enquiries: 

Kerry Mauchline
Spokesperson to Minister Debbie Schäfer
Western Cape Ministry of Education
Kerry.Mauchline@westerncape.gov.za