Rural communities embrace big science - and God

2014-01-22 08:30
Minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom leans on one of the KAT 7 radio antenna dishes on the site of the SKA outside Carnarvon. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom leans on one of the KAT 7 radio antenna dishes on the site of the SKA outside Carnarvon. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - Poor and generally conservative communities are accepting of cutting edge science projects that may contradict their beliefs, the science and technology minister has said.

The major science projects like the Salt (Southern African Large Telescope) in Sutherland and SKA (Square Kilometre Array) near Carnarvon in the Northern Cape province seek to answer question about the age and dawn of the universe.

These projects though, are surrounded by poor and generally, deeply conservative communities.

Sutherland has its fair share of religious buildings and ecclesiastical officials are widely respected in the community.

However, despite the fact that Salt science may contradict beliefs about the nature and origin of the universe, the community accepts the science community with open arms.

Local benefit

"To a large extent the communities that host the cutting-edge science are receptive to these projects, as there are many collateral benefits that accrue to these communities," Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom told News24.

He said that at the site of the SKA outside Carnarvon, there were plans to ensure that the locals benefited from the giant science project that aims to look 13 billion years back in time.

"The SKA SA Project Office has worked with the communities of the towns surrounding the SKA site in the Karoo since 2005. The community initiatives aim to improve quality of life and provide economic opportunities."

Carnarvon is one of those towns that seem stuck in a time warp with infrastructure that urban dwellers take for granted like 3G connectivity and broadband largely lacking or inaccessible.

The wide roads are mostly quiet and many unemployed locals spend days at watering holes in the conservative and impoverished community.

Projects like the SKA bring hope of not only employment, but also hope of escaping the poverty trap in the rural town.

The project has recruited maths and physical science teachers in both Carnarvon and Sutherland as an attempt to improve the learners' opportunity for further study.


"SKA SA has over the last two years provided bursaries to 27 grade 12 students to study toward a further education and training (FET) certification. Eight of these students have already been employed by the project as assistant technicians and report to the site operations team," Hanekom said.

He added that the SKA project also made extensive use of local labour where it was possible and that around 900 jobs had been created in site operations.

"These jobs include the civil works for the construction of buildings, roads, the landing strip and the construction of camps, as well as for the electrical and optical fibre ducting reticulation."

Salt is the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and the SKA will cost around €1.5bn and it is expected to be completed by 2024.

Hanekom said that Carnarvon High School is the only one in the area that offers the subjects of maths and physics and the expansion of science education is part of the department's vision to produce PhDs.

"Informed by the understanding that a PhD is a driver of innovation and global competitiveness, the National Development Plan sets a production target of 100 doctoral graduates per million of the population by 2030, which translates to 5 000 PhDs per year from a base of 1 420 in 2010."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

Read more on:    derek hanekom  |  kimberley  |  astronomy  |  ska

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Shilowa supports Vote No campaign

Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa has come out in support of the Vote No! Campaign launched recently by former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, says a report.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 8520

Wi-Fi enabled With the BlackBerry Curve 8520 connect to your home...

From R1100.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.