TAKING PHYSICS TO THE HEART OF VENDA (The NSW2016 WITS Report)

 

After two hours of experiments and chat with the students, it was time to leave, thoroughly exhausted by the heat and the scientific explanations.

Thursday 10th August, we were back to Mukula high school, this time with a different group of five schools from the circuit to entertain and impress. I was determined to show off my new learned Venda words: I swapped the English “Hello” for the Venda “Ndaa”, pleasantly shocking my interlocutors, who lost me completely with unexpected answers. We had our round of photos before the litany of speeches (once again). Today was a bit different; we were

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joined by a special guest in the person of Dr Eric Musekene, the leader of a local NGO who arranged, together with the schools and Chief, our visit in Limpopo. Dr Musekene had helped arranging the same event the year before. It went well enough that we were asked to come again

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this year. Furthermore, the team of student DJs was more prepared – the microphone and electronic instruments had been out of service the day before.

After the morning ceremony, we skipped lunch and carried on directly with the two-hour long demos. This time, we knew what the learners wanted. Though they had shown a preference for the exploding balloons, they were even more interesting in getting those balloons for themselves. This group was no different; this made it easier to entice them into paying attention.

 

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This group was more open than the previous one to personal questions: “How long does it take you to become a doctor?”, “why did you chose science?”, “what do I need to do to study at Wits?”, “is it difficult?”… . By the early afternoon we were done and ready to pack our equipment before heading back to the hotel for a power nap; we had a stargazing session planned for the evening. By six in the evening we were back to the school, where a sparse crowd of students and other kids in the area were waiting. The sky was dark enough that we could get set straight away, our astronomy crew leading the proceedings. Luckily, Venus had not yet disappeared over the horizon behind the school building. Though I admit we could not

 

see much details with our telescope. Nevertheless, for a first time, it was amazing. After Venus had left the party, we settled for our closest galactic neighbour: the moon. Seeing the craters so close and in such high definition was a first for all the kids present. “Waaaaouh!” was the common interjection when placing one eye on the eyepiece. One after the other, they all wanted to witness this sorcery that

allowed them to see so far away. Saturn on the other hand was trickier to catch with the eye; we had to almost continuously adjust the telescope to catch a glimpse of its shiny rings. For the lucky ones who did, it was definitely a sight they will always remember. Mars on the other hand was not as interesting as movies like the Martian portray it; in Mars’s defence, we just had our telescope to blame for it. The rest of the evening was dedicated to one more photoshoot, our last one in Mukula before heading to Vhaluvhu High School the day after, a little over a hundred kilometres away from Mukula High School. The goodbye were quite emotional; we received many thanks from the locals and the Chief. We hope to see once more.

 

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