Hendrik Verwoerd, the Dutch-born South African politician, humanist and columnist was known for his detest addresses against individuals of African plummet. He was one of the individuals who never thought anything great would ever leave Africa and that instructing Africans particularly in Mathematics, Science and Technology was an articulate exercise in futility and assets.
On the education of Africans, he has said and decreed in the 1953 Bantu Eucation Act that:
“What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd.
“Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.
“Blacks are hewers of wood, and drawers of water”
I wonder how Verwoerd would be feeling in his grave today! Because two South African students just won the HIP2B² 3M Innovation Challenge – a competition for students established by Billionaire Businessman, Mark Shuttleworth in 2002 to promote the study of Maths, Science and Technology-related subjects – yes, the same Maths, Science and Technology Verwoerd said should not be ‘wasted’ on Africans.
Trevor Simelane, 16, and Joseph Mdluli, 17, both students from Mandlesive secondary school, Kanyamazane in Mpumalanga, South Africa won the competition with the prototype of a fire fighting robot they invented.
They won the grand prize of $100 each, an iPad each and other mouth watering prizes.
Speaking after winning the challenge, Simelane told reporters that:
“We decided to tackle the problem of fires because it is one of the top three [problematic] issues in the country.
“The robot is meant to detect people in the building and extinguish class A to F fires. It uses dry powder and wet chemicals to stop the fire instead of water.
“This robot can transform smoke from the fire into carbon dioxide, which then extinguished the fire. It must be controlled by a firefighter who is away from danger.”
According to the judges, what impressed everyone present was the fact that the robot was made from readily available recycled materials.
Other young inventors who were present at the challenge and worthy of mentions are the Ledwaba sisters – Nomvula, 16, and Elizabeth, 15 who invented a solar bookcase that lights up desks for pupils without electricity.
Hudson Mashaninga and Thokozani Mlauzi invented a backpack for storing litter, to prevent people from dropping litter in their environment in areas where there are no waste bins.
Indeed, Verwoerd would be ashamed; what a shame it is to be proven wrong by kids!