SciFest Africa, or the National Festival of Science, Engineering and Technology, is held on 18th until the 24th of March 2015 in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape and attendance now goes beyond 40, 000 visitors every year. Scientists from several countries all over the world are invited to share their work, make science attainable to everyone from all walks of life, give career guidance, and act as role models for young generations who may have potential in the field or simply wish to discover the possibilities of science subjects.
The main aims of the festival, as claimed by the organizers, is improve upon the misconceptions of scientific study and allow an exploration of different perspectives about technology, science, engineering and mathematics by demonstrating that these fields of study are present everyday life. On over seven days it features around 600 events consisting of lectures, workshops, a laser show, game drives, sunset shows, science olympics, field trips, talk shops, robotics competitions, school quizzes, interactive displays, the PlayFair, and a film festival.
SciFest Africa was the first Festival of its kind on the African continent and was launched in 1997 as a high profile, national event to promote a culture of science in a festive way. Grahamstown is the only city in South Africa whose primary commerce sector is that of education.
SciFest Africa is a project of the Grahamstown Foundation, a non-profit public benefit organisation established in 1969. Grahamstown is home to many schools, Rhodes University, and several institutes, most importantly the South African National Library for the Blind, the National English Literary Museum, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (formerly the JLB Smith Institute), the International Library of African Music (ILAM), the Albany Museum (which includes a local history museum, a natural history museum, observatory museum and the Institute for the Study of English in Africa.
Visitors at this year’s Scifest Africa may have the opportunity to interact with a well-known NASA representative including the American space agency’s Chief Scientist, Deputy Chief Technologist, Rosetta Mission Lead Project Scientist, and an astronaut who has recorded more than 4,000 hours in space. The John Webb Space Telescope, Mars Exploration Programme, New Horizons Mission, Rosetta Mission and NASA’s plans for a new era of space exploration may be a focal point this year. The theme may explore various other areas such as: anatomy, biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, arts and culture, astronomy, atmospheric sciences, aviation, diet, energy, fibre optics, gravity, lasers, matter, optics, photonics, microscopy, nanotechnology, space sciences, the spectrum, and the universe as a whole.
Outside of Festival time, the non-profit organization SciFest Africa concentrates on various other projects related to science, technology, engineering and maths in South Africa: SciFest-on-the-Road, Primary School outreach and Mall Shows. Quite a number of science centres around the country provide another important platform for engaging public audiences, especially teachers and students. Over the years new science festivals, science weeks, and other science outreach programs were developed in the city as a conscious effort to promote science in rural communities.
As the second largest continent in the world, Africa is also an expanse of divergent lands and cultures. Grahamstown’s focus on education and scientific development makes it unique for students and science-enthusiasts alike wishing to visit the various institutions within the province or to take part in SciFest Africa to experience an interesting side South Africa has to offer its visitors. With the Kwantu Elephant Sanctuary, historical cathedrals, and many museums, Grahamstown presents a range of sights and activities for diverse tastes and styles wishing to be experienced.
How might SciFest Africa promote the growth of education in the Eastern Cape?