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While the ocean remains one of the most mysterious entities on earth, a group of KwaNobuhle high school pupils are doing more than simply scratching the surface to understand some of its secrets.

While the ocean remains one of the most mysterious entities on earth, a group of KwaNobuhle high school pupils are doing more than simply scratching the surface to understand some of its secrets.

This is as a direct result of Solomon Mahlangu High School being one of only a handful of schools in the province providing pupils with marine sciences as a subject.

Three years ago the Kariega school became one of the first located in a township to afford their pupils the opportunity to get to grips with maritime studies, its associated career paths and the particle intricacies as well as balance between humans and the ocean.

And ensuring the grade 10, 11 and matric pupils enrolled for marine sciences at the school do not fall by the wayside and are able to navigate their new found nautical prowess is their teacher and Nelson Mandela University marine sciences graduate Rebotile Matabane.

Matabane has been teaching at the school since 2022 and said she intends continuing to craft the eager minds of young pupils who previously thought of the ocean as simply for recreational activity.

“For every kid, there is a general interest in the ocean but for the kids from this school and others they saw it as just being a place to have a swim,” she said.

“Now as they are introduced to the possible careers, resources we receive and marine life all coming from the ocean, their fascination with it has been peaked.

“And I believe it is better for them to know about it [maritime studies and careers] and not choose to pursue it than to not choose it because they didn’t know about it.”

Matabane said three subjects fell within the ambit of maritime studies, including marine sciences, maritime economics and nautical science.

“At the moment we are the only school in the province that has a matric cohort [consisting of 10 pupils] studying marine sciences.

“Next year we will be introducing maritime economics at the school and the introduction of nautical sciences is still in the pipeline.”

She said marine sciences consisted of four pillars, namely oceanography, humans and oceans, ecology and marine biology.

“The pupils predominantly enjoy the marine biology aspect the most as they voice their interest in learning about sharks and all the rest.

“While we are not located near the ocean we have been very fortunate in working with NMU’s Ocean Science Campus and SA International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) who assist with a lot of the practical aspects and allowing our pupils to accompany their students on various trips.

“They [the pupils] have certainly developed in their thinking and approach towards the environment even beyond the classroom, with many advising parents and community members of what products they should be buying because of the way it is processed.”

In an effort to introduce more pupils to the sector and ensure the province is at the forefront of maritime business and education, the Eastern Cape Socio Economic Consultative Council (Ecsecc), in partnership with the department of education in the Eastern Cape, recently hosted the Maritime Education and Skills Development Summit in East London.

The two-day summit earlier this month saw invested parties from both the private and public sectors gather to discuss the ever-evolving maritime industry.

Transnet National Ports Authority, in celebration of World Maritime Month, also launched the maritime roadshow at the Raymond Mhlaba Sports Centre in Motherwell.

Matabane was present at both events.

“Just recently, following a roadshow to advertise maritime careers, one of the grade 10 pupils returned to class wanting to be a sea farer.

“This is the type of career that they would not of even known about had it not been presented to them in this way.

“The importance of having these types of introductions to these niche topics and careers allows them to make informed decisions about their future.”

This article appeared in The Herald on 21 September 2023

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