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Northern Cape learner on his way to Antarctica

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The five matriculants, including Cobus Burger from Hoërskool Duineveld in the Northern Cape, who secured a trip to Antarctica will finally depart after preparing themselves during their nine day isolation.

Ayakha Melithafa from COSAT in Khayelitsha, Cobus Burger from Hoërskool Duineveld in the Northern Cape, Boiketlo Lamula from Sedaven High School in Gauteng, Thea Earnest from Mountview Secondary School in KwaZulu Natal and Kelby Barker from Diocesan School for Girls in the Eastern Cape are headed to Antartica. Photo: Facebook/Matrics in Antarctica

THE FIVE matriculants who secured a trip to Antarctica will finally depart after preparing themselves during their nine day isolation.

The group of Matrics in Antarctica (MIA) learners stayed at the Table Bay hotel for their Covid-19 isolation period and will depart from there on Tuesday.

Their first stop will be the Novolazarevskaya Antarctic research station in Russia.

The City’s mayoral committee member for transport, Felicity Purchase, said: “Cape Town is one of the gateway cities which serve as platforms to the entry of the Antarctic continent.

“The others are Christchurch, Hobart, Punta Arenas and Ushuaia. Cape Town is the largest of these gateway cities and creates the departure point from both the port and air access. It is a privilege for Cape Town to be one of the gateway cities.”

She said the learners would fly in a plane they’ve probably never imagined before. “To experience the sun never setting is going to be a first for the learners. They will land on a flat ice shelf that just goes on for miles.”

MIA founder, Riaan Manser, who will be at the forefront of guiding the learners, said: “This is going to be a groundbreaking expedition during the five days there in terms of data gathering. These five bright kids will get an intimate, first hand understanding of Antarctica.”

He said touching the ice in Antarctica would allow them to return a lot more ambitious to fight climate change.

“The fact that Cape Town is an easy portal to the continent means we have to make sure that our country’s citizens are being introduced to Antarctica at a young age and to also start taking some personal responsibility because of our proximity.”

Western Cape MIA winner Ayakha Melithafa – who is from the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) in Khayelitsha – said: “Experiencing what other continents are facing will help me shape my activism to get more people involved in the movement against the climate crisis.

“The environment is a problem bigger than ourselves and as a young generation, it is our responsibility to take it into our own hands. We need to articulate what’s happening around us and understand that it is not okay.

“We need to let the older generation know that we do see what is happening and we want to move in a different direction.”

Phaldiela Cooper, principal of COSAT, said she is extremely proud of Melithafa whose resolute effort has been rewarded by her being chosen for this unique opportunity.

“I am very happy that a learner from Khayelitsha can represent the Western Cape. She has been working very hard in the community to bring attention to the climate crisis and urge people to take care of the environment.”

Western Cape MEC Debbie Schäfer also congratulated Melithafa for being one of the winners out of more than 3 000 entries from across South Africa.

“Having met with Mr Manser during the development of the trip and competition, I am so pleased that a learner from the Western Cape is going to be joining him for this experience.

“While in Antarctica, the students will do experiments and go on an overnight adventure camp. I have no doubt that the five matrics will learn valuable lessons not only about Antarctica and the scientific research being undertaken there, but also in personal development and character-building,” Schäfer said.

“I spoke to Ayakhe yesterday to wish her well. She is very excited and I hope to engage with her on her return to find out about her experiences.”