SciMathUS – the road to a better future

“SciMathUS is not just a repeat of an old opportunity – it is a new path ahead for your future.”

 These were the words of encouragement from Prof Russel Botman, SU Rector, to the new SciMathUS students at the official opening held in the SU Conservatorium on Tuesday.

 Prof Botman also said SciMathUS is the first step to university studies and encouraged the students to, after the completion of their degrees, plough back their knowledge, time and expertise into their alma mater. “By doing this you can also help others to also become successful.”

 Dr Kosie Smit, Director of the Institute for Mathematics and Science Teaching (IMSTUS), welcomed the students and their parents and said the essence of SciMathUS is that young people are given an opportunity to excel. “Hard work and dedication is a prerequisite for success. Be warned – SciMathUS is going to change your life.”

Prof Russel Botman with three former SciMathUS students. From the left: Lothando Vazi (he is currently a second year medicine student), Lebo Oldjohn (she received her degree in Chemical Engineering at last year's graduation ceremony) and Earl Kahn who obtained his BAcc degree. (Photo: Anton Jordaan, SCPS)

 SciMathUS is managed by IMSTUS of the Curriculum Studies Department of Stellenbosch University. The programme aims to address the situation of too few black people entering tertiary education for training in the natural sciences, applied natural sciences and the economic and management sciences.

 Students from disadvantaged schools who demonstrate potential are selected for the Programme and registered as special day students at the University. This is done via a structured 10-month programme where students receive intensive tuition in Math, Physical Science and Accounting.

 According to Ms Nokwanda Siyengo, SciMathUS programme leader, said the potential to find answers to problems lies within all of us. “The answers are within you – you only need the will power to dig deep and unlock that potential.”

 She also pointed out since 2008 SciMathUS has had a 100% pass rate for Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Ms Siyengo also said that since the start of the programme it has delivered no less than 5 medical doctors and four engineers. About 80 students have also graduated with degrees from Stellenbosch University.

 Two of the new students, Mvundlela Mnqweno of Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape and Marchelle Valentine of Paarl, both expressed the hope to improve their marks and said they are looking forward to the year that lies ahead. Mvundlela wants to venture into the world of genetics while Marchelle wants to realise her dream of becoming a medical doctor.

 Lebo Oldjohn, a former SciMathUS student who graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering at the December graduation ceremony last year, had the following advice for the new group: “A lot of hard work awaits you. Look ahead five years from now – that’s when you will be getting your degree. It is a great feeling. Now think of the choices and decisions you have to make in order to realise that goal.”