Career choices stem from quiz competition

2019-10-01 06:00
On Saturday 14 September, 366 Grade 12 learners from 40 schools across the Western Cape gathered at Wynberg Girls’ High School to compete in the second annual mGenAfrica quiz competition.

On Saturday 14 September, 366 Grade 12 learners from 40 schools across the Western Cape gathered at Wynberg Girls’ High School to compete in the second annual mGenAfrica quiz competition.

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The second annual mGenAfrica quiz competition, held on Saturday 14 September, saw 366 Grade 12 learners from 40 schools across the Western Cape gather at Wynberg Girls’ High School.

The quiz competition, piloted last year in the Metro South Education District (MSED), included five districts this year.

The competition aims to inspire Grade 12 learners to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).

Learners competed as either individuals or teams in various heats using the quiz Moodle platform which mirrors the contents and activities found on the mGenAfrica platform. The online platform and mobile app – an initiative of the University of Cape Town (UCT) in partnership with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) – helps learners gauge their knowledge; and prepare for tests and exams through online quizzes.

Dr Vicky Nembaware, who conceived this project, says: “mGenAfrica aims to inspire learners to choose careers in life science in an easily assessable manner”.

In addition to quiz and engagement activities, mGenAfrica’s website freely provides videos that explain complex life sciences concepts, a section for learners to translate or simplify life science terms and a career portal. Learners are also able to connect with UCT researchers during live chat sessions and draw inspiration from a variety of career spotlight profiles.

Launched in August 2018 to promote engagement between high school learners and research staff working in genomics and other health research fields across Africa, the platform aims to make learning life sciences, especially genetics, fun. And that is exactly what learners, competing on the day, had.

In between heats, energy levels were kept high with life science-themed karaoke and dance-offs in the main hall, interspersed with inspiring career talks by UCT researchers.

Dr Paul Steyn from the university’ department of human biology was one of the speakers who held his audience spellbound. He wowed learners with a demonstration of the cardiac system using a virtual reality system.

Deon Khan, e-learning advisor for MSED, says having researchers share their experiences with learners is invaluable. “I’m very pleased with the kind of effort made by UCT to expose the learners to a number of career opportunities,” he said. “These researchers are role models that can inspire learners to look beyond the more well-known or obvious career paths.”

The day’s activities culminated in a final quiz-off. In the individual category, Mbasakazi Songololo from Spine Road High School was the overall winner.

She was followed closely by Charles Martin from South Peninsula High School in second position and Merel van den Brink from Parklands College in third.

In the group category, South Peninsula High School came first, followed by Sinethemba High School in second position and Fairmont High School in third.

Songololo was rewarded with a trophy, laptop, as well as the opportunity to attend the 13th African Society of Human Genetics Conference in Tanzania in September.

All other winners received scientific calculators, trophies, memory sticks and backpacks.

And although not everyone who participated could be crowned winners, all did walk away richer.

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