South Africa has declared 1998 the ‘Year of Science and Technology’. The programme will be launched formally in Cape Town next month, when President Nelson Mandela will visit a school computer laboratory and receive e-mail messages sent by schoolchildren at other schools.
The main aim of the programme, according to member of parliament M. F. Cassim of the arts, culture, science and technology portfolio committee, will be “to reach out to every child in every corner of the land” to persuade them of both the excitement and the importance of science and technology.
This will be done through a series of ‘focus weeks’, staggered throughout the year, in each of the nine provinces. In many cases these weeks will be followed by additional activities in rural areas.
Foreign governments have agreed to support the programmes in four provinces. The Western Cape Province, which will host the first focus week, will be supported by France, and will include visits to research vessels launched in Cape Town harbour. Focus weeks in Mpumalanga, the Northern Province and the North West Province will be supported by Russia, the Netherlands and the United States respectively.
South Africa's eight science councils will be participating through a range of exhibitions, competitions, public lectures and open days. Each is responsible for a particular ‘thrust’, with the Foundation for Research Development, for example, promoting astronomy and space science, the Medical Research Council showcasing public health, and the Council for Geoscience responsible for archaeology and palaeontology.