This includes a number of outreach activities at various schools and communities across the continent to popularise astronomy and run career awareness programmes. The activities will include star gazing activities, sky viewings, mobile planetariums, etc. All of this will be done in partnership with various other organisations in the science engagement sector.

My 1st Trip to Sutherland

The morning of the 24th October started beautifully, as most days do, below the shadow of Devil’s Peak at SAAO. Today was different though, because a 10-year dream was about to come to fruition.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to visit SALT, the largest optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. This finally happened on a humid Tuesday as a small subset of the SAAO Science Engagement Team, including me, embarked on an intern trip to Sutherland.

The shuttle left at around 11 am and we were accompanied the entire way through the Karoo by a parade of purple as the barren landscape performed its spring bloom for us. I started to get goosebumps after we passed through the quaint town of Sutherland and the magnificent view of the Observatory on its mountain-top came into view.

We proceeded to our assigned rooms after which we were treated to the largest piece of meat I have ever seen in my life. The Observatory has dinosaur fossils but I didn’t expect a dinosaur steak lol.

At dino-supper we were introduced to the Salt Astronomer (Moses), who would be taking us up to SALT for a small tour. We were allowed into the majestic telescope and Moses kindly rotated it for us, it was at this point of the night that the first few tears began to flow, i was speechless as my colleagues, bursting with pride, explained to me all intricacies of how SALT actually operates.

I got to spend the remainder of the evening in the SALT control room watching the team do actual observations. My eyes were glued to the multiple screens as the SO and SA walked us through the ballet they perform each night in order to record some pretty wicked science.

I spent the final few hours of the evening just staring up and basking in awe at the night sky that is usually so polluted with city lights. The sound of the wind rushing over SALT’s open shutters provided the background music to what was, for me, a magical evening in Sutherland.


Compiled by Shamin Doman


The trip to Sutherland is the epitome of beauty that nature embodies. With flowers blooming as winter makes way for spring, our path was adorned with the vibrant hues of blossoms along the roadside. Amidst the 400-kilometer stretch separating Cape Town and Sutherland, this unexpected encounter with nature’s splendor quickly became one of the standout highlights of our journey.


Stepping into Sutherland, a town marked by high unemployment rates and substance abuse, I embarked on my first outreach experience with a singular goal: to ignite the spark of inspiration in at least one learner, urging them to dream bigger, regardless of their circumstances. It struck me as ironic that even in these remote corners of the world, a can of Coke could reach, but educational resources and opportunities seemed scarce. In my own school days, various educational organizations had made their appearances, yet none left a lasting impact on me, except for one remarkable individual named Patson Mayo. He had no obligatory reason to visit our school, but his unwavering commitment to motivate and nurture dreams made an indelible mark on my life. With the Sutherland High School outreach trip, I aimed to follow in his footsteps, aspiring to inspire and influence at least one learner.

Observing the eager faces of the students, I couldn’t help but notice the potential shining brightly in their eyes. Their radiance wasn’t just a result of the Vaseline protecting them from the cold; it was a reflection of their boundless futures. While my initial objective was to touch the life of one learner, the impact of each session we conducted was undeniable. These children felt valued, empowered, and equipped as we shared our individual stories with them. I hope that our interactions not only motivated them but also propels them to work diligently in their studies, seeking the opportunities that other students enjoy.


Sutherland is a place that combines stunning landscapes and incredible dark skies for a unique experience. It’s high up in the mountains, about 1700 meters above sea level, which makes it perfect for thinking deep thoughts and looking at the stars. The Sutherland Observatory, located there, is like a special window to space. At night, when the sky is dark, you can see amazing things. There are two special clouds in the sky, called the Large Magellanic Cloud and the small Magellanic Cloud. They look like faint, glowing patches in the sky, and you can see them with your own eyes.

The observatory in Sutherland has some really powerful telescopes that let you see the universe up close, almost like having a special pass to see behind the scenes. It’s a breath-taking sight that reminds us of how humans explore space beyond our planet. Sutherland is a place where you can enjoy both the beauty of nature and the wonder of the night sky. It’s a peaceful escape from the busy daily life, where you can feel more connected to the incredible universe above us. Whether you know a lot about space or just enjoy looking at the stars, visiting Sutherland will leave you amazed and make you feel closer to the vast cosmos.

Starry Nights and Serene Days: A Journey through Sutherland

OAD, BRICS, AfAS,Hack4Dev and African Science Stars outreach representatives visited Sutherland for a 3-days event.


In the Heart of the Universe:

A road-trip to South Africa’s Northern Cape, the town of Sutherland beckons with promises of celestial wonders and heartwarming encounters. Our journey to this remote gem was sparked by a desire to connect with Sutherland High School learners and inspire them to reach for the stars, both literally and figuratively.

Setting Our Goals High:

Our initial goals were clear: kindle the flames of ambition in young hearts, explore the world-renowned SALT (Southern African Large Telescope) Visitor’s Centre, distribute educational materials, and perhaps, capture a newsworthy story as a science journalist. But as we ventured deeper into the heart of this charming town, we discovered that Sutherland had much more in store for us.

Memories Painted in Stardust:

As we embarked on our adventure, the moments that left a mark were as numerous as the stars that grace Sutherland’s night sky.

Scenic Views: Our journey began with a mesmerizing sunset at the SALT ‘ringing rocks (rocks that resonate like a bell when struck), where stones harmonized with the wind’s gentle touch. These rocks, nestled behind the 1.0m Telescope. 

Exciting Activities: 

  • Under the expert guidance of Sally, our stargazing sessions transformed into celestial odysseys. We danced among the constellations, discovering the “teapot,” the “scorpion & Sagittarius,” and countless other celestial wonders. Interacting with high school learners, embarking on a tranquil lakeside walk, and delving into Mo’s world in the control room added layers of excitement to our journey.
  • It was in how Mo made his work easy just by reading a line of different frequencies and explained it in simple terms.

Unexpected Surprises: 

  • What truly enriched our experience was the warm embrace of Dudu and Charle’s families, who, despite our initial plans, became our companions on this unforgettable voyage. Their presence turned an adventure into a heartfelt journey.
  • This is not really a surprise, but the team made me feel at home, we connected like family (we are family now).

Challenges and Learnings:

  • Amidst the glittering stars and serene landscapes, we couldn’t ignore the challenges faced by the community. Sutherland’s remoteness often isolates researchers from their families and social lives (maybe this is a life choice). 
  • The youth here, despite residing in the vicinity of the Southern Hemisphere’s grandest project, SALT, have limited exposure to opportunities. Basic services like electricity remain a rarity for the local school. 
  • The learners we interacted with pointed out a high drop-out rate 

Emotions and Feelings: 

  • When I got there, I was a bit overwhelmed by everything happening, but as the trip went on, it really won me over.

Access to visuals

  • Photos or Visuals were shared via Drive & We-transfer.

Favourite picture

A pretty quilt-- with a telescope on it!-- in the lobby of the SAAO museum.

Figure 2: The first picture (or a blanket ) of a night-sky your eyes see enter the Visitors Centre

Our journey through Sutherland has left us with not only memories of awe-inspiring celestial beauty but also a deeper understanding of life in this remote corner of the world. It’s a place where the stars illuminate both the night sky and the dreams of those who call it home


Hello, I’m not certain who will come across this, but I wanted to share reflections on my second trip to Sutherland. My experiences from the journey can be summarised into three primary themes: “Sutherland: Between Distractions and Existential Questions,” “Reflections on Outreach in Sutherland,” and, “Love’s Dual Nature” I hope these insights prove valuable and inspire action as we navigate our lives. 

Sutherland: Between Distractions and Existential Questions 

On our trip, we were accompanied by a 6-year-old; let’s refer to her as “Juju”. Watching her sleep in the car, I imagined Juju at 20, telling her friends about a Sutherland trip she barely remembers. At that moment, I also pictured myself and everyone in the car as much older, with more gray hair. This might sound a bit dark, but those who know me are aware that I frequently ponder death. These reflections have intensified, especially after the passing of a former boss and my two near-death experiences earlier this year. 

I mention these not to complain but to express my gratitude for the deep lessons they’ve given me. For some, facing mortality serves as an alarm, pushing us to ask the big questions we often dodge: “Why are we here?” and “What’s next after death?”. Just as a successful organisation needs clarity in its purpose, so do individuals. Otherwise, we risk losing our way. 

Well, not everyone has to experience a near-death incident or the loss of a loved one to reflect and ponder deeply. For instance, when I gaze at the night sky in Sutherland, I’m immediately captivated. The primary emotion is appreciation for witnessing such a magnificent sight. But who should we appreciate or thank? When we watch a fantastic performance, we clap, recognising the human effort behind it. But how should we respond to the wonders of nature? Is it with gratitude, or do we dismiss it as mere chance? If it’s just by chance, well it have any value? Consider if “JUJU I LOVE YOU” in the following line has any value or holds any meaning. 

Jasd Usdjak Sbdf Tlih IbdI NbD EuG JUJU I LOVE YOU ISD ❤️ GIAUB UF 

Addressing those existential questions can either serve as a beacon to illuminate the truth of our existence or make us lose touch with who we truly are, even leading to fear of oneself. Sutherland provides the perfect setting for deep thought. However, the unfortunate reality is that many people choose to distract themselves to avoid such reflection, either by making light of it, immersing themselves in work, using technologies like phones, consuming alcohol, or watching sports. 

Reflections on Outreach in Sutherland 

On the second day, we visited the only school in Sutherland. Our visit was intended as outreach, where we aimed to share aspects of our work and some life experiences. Given that many of us have a science background, our discussions predominantly revolved around topics like astronomy, the night sky, programming, psychology, and the process of university applications. However, in one session, it became evident that a significant number of students are inclined towards business as a major, due to its potential for income generation. To our surprise, we later found out that many students, mostly girls, drop out during grades 11 and 12. This made me wonder: how much did our talk truly inspire them? Did they even consider our encouragement about applying to universities? 

As an 8-month expert in relationships �� , I can confidently say that communication is key. It’s essential to genuinely understand the real needs of these communities before attempting to address them. This approach is far superior to imposing our assumptions and agendas, trying to “fix” problems that might not even be relevant to them.

Love’s Dual Nature 

Speaking of love, let us first speak about the love of a mother. On this trip, we were accompanied by the 6-year old Juju. While all of us adults took turns looking after her, the women in our group displayed distinctive maternal care. This deepened my appreciation for my own mother. Yep, this is Eslam attempting to sound wise, right after complaining about cleaning the kitchen! 

Now, let’s discuss romance. Sutherland is beautiful, but it feels lonely without the presence of those you deeply love. That’s why I often tell my colleagues, “You guys are the wrong company”. Dont get me wrong, my colleagues are amazing. But the experience will never be complete unless she is around. At the very least, the physical pain diminishes in her presence. It’s astounding how our bodies can feel such deep emotions. This whole experience makes me appreciate her even more. Indeed, being in love, experiencing love, and showing love truly make us feel most alive. And yes, while I write this, I’m thinking of her; guess her nickname?… Juju ❤️ 

A photo capturing Eslam’s romantic and wise demeanour. 

I am done, 



My Experience at NSW 2023

Hi, my name is Shamin and I want to tell you all about my experiences at National Science Week (NSW) 2023.

I was part of the Johannesburg group headed up by the brilliant Dr Tshiamiso Makwela.

Our goal for NSW 2023 was to spread the love for Astronomy to as many kids as we could as well as promote the upcoming IAU GA which will actually be taking place in Cape Town South Africa.

I am a commerce graduate and a Physics undergraduate, so this was my first experience getting to do outreach about Astronomy. 

We visited close to 20 schools, most of them in Soweto, and it has been something I will never forget. At home, the moment I start talking about Astronomy then people tend to switch off but here I got the opportunity to feed the young minds of our future with Science, and believe me when I say that they were hungry for this information.

The schools we visited were very accommodating and it was possible to see the drive they have to give their students the best chance they can. The students themselves were full of some lovely and thought-provoking questions and I really enjoyed providing them with as many answers as I could.

Overall I feel that doing these sort of outreach events is paramount to ensuring the next generations ability to survive and adapt in the ever-changing landscape of South Africa.

Kind Regards


Empowering Minds and Bridging Borders: Reflections on National Science Week 2023

National Science Week 2023 proved to be an extraordinary event, surpassing all expectations and leaving an indelible mark on both the participants and myself. While many of the schools I visited were selected randomly, a few were chosen due to personal connections that added an intriguing blend of excitement and bewilderment among school principals as they sought to understand my selection process. Born in Mpumalanga yet having spent the majority of my school years in Limpopo, I grappled with deciding which provinces to visit, a decision complicated by living with individuals working in both regions, each advocating fervently for their province. Consequently, I found myself navigating this dilemma by dividing the week between the two areas, an arrangement that would ultimately shape the course of my outreach endeavors.

During my interactions with students, I delved into an array of captivating topics ranging from Astronomy to STEMI careers, and even delved into the therapeutic benefits of stargazing for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. To keep the young minds engaged, I orchestrated an array of hands-on experiments that ignited their curiosity and wonderment. These activities included mixing baking soda with vinegar to inflate a balloon, showcasing the mesmerizing mentos and coke reaction, and even demonstrating the seemingly magical skewer-through-balloon trick that incited playful accusations of sorcery and bewitchment.

The inauguration of National Science Week was accompanied by a sense of apprehension and anticipation. Uncertain of what lay ahead, I nervously embarked on my journey to the first school on my meticulously crafted schedule. The news that the school principal wouldn’t be present added an extra layer of anxiety to the mix. However, upon reaching the school, my worries were quickly put to rest as I connected with the science teacher who, to my pleasant surprise, awaited my arrival. The students, much to my delight, exhibited an astonishing level of discipline, attentiveness, and active engagement that surpassed my initial expectations. The language barrier I had feared – communicating in Sepedi – dissolved as most students were comfortable conversing in English. Their enthusiasm and confident responses not only warmed my heart but also reaffirmed my purpose. While I had prepared a few gifts for the most enthusiastic learners, I couldn’t help but regret not having more to distribute given their eagerness.

As Day 1 of National Science Week drew to a close, I ventured to a nearby high school after completing the primary school visit. The engagement with the older students was notable, albeit accompanied by a degree of shyness that contrasted the younger learners’ boundless enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the overall engagement was positive and overwhelming, marking the day as a resounding success that left me eagerly awaiting Day 2. However, the events of the following day would prove to be drastically different.

Words scarcely suffice to encapsulate the gamut of emotions that accompanied the events of the second day. My fears, which had lurked in the shadows, materialized into reality. Many students struggled with English comprehension or displayed a palpable reluctance to engage. The classroom dynamic became somewhat uncontrollable, with students disregarding their teachers’ instructions for silence and responding minimally to my queries. Only during the meticulously prepared experiments did their attention reach its zenith. Day 2 concluded, leaving me disheartened, physically exhausted, and yearning for respite in the familiar embrace of my bed, all while National Science Week continued its relentless march.

The dawn of Day 3 ushered in a renewed sense of purpose as I ventured to three schools in close proximity. Opting for nearby schools was a strategic choice, considering the mounting fatigue stemming from early starts and extended commutes. This decision also granted me the opportunity to revisit my own old Primary School – Laerskool Mariepskop – situated conveniently close to home, before continuing with the day’s schedule.

A surge of unexpected anxiety accompanied my return to my alma mater. One might assume that visiting the school where I had forged my educational path would quell the apprehension I had experienced during the initial days. However, reality diverged from such assumptions. The first two days had been marked by my primary concern of communicating in Sepedi, a language I was not entirely proficient in. Yet, on the third day, it dawned on me that speaking in Afrikaans might be more fitting, given my status as an alumnus. Unfortunately, this plan faltered, as my fluency in Afrikaans had waned since high school. This visit marked the first official return to the school in 18 years, imbuing it with a sense of purpose distinct from prior visits. Memories surged forth as I traversed the familiar halls and corridors, evoking a profound sense of nostalgia tinged with the realization of the passage of time. This experience not only rekindled memories but also underscored my own aging, as none of the current students were born when I left Primary School. Despite the language barrier, connecting with the students was deeply gratifying. While I had much knowledge and insight to share, I found myself gaining valuable perspectives from their fresh outlooks.

Following the nostalgia-laden revisit to my old primary school, I made my way to Hoerskool Hoedspruit High School, the local high school. The positive motivation instilled by interactions with younger students persisted, leading me to the high school with a sense of optimism. However, the contrast between the enthusiasm of younger students and the reserved engagement of older ones became apparent. This difference wasn’t surprising, considering the current dynamics where younger students often exhibit a greater openness to new experiences.

The final school of the day, Lowveld Academy Primary School, catered to students from Grades RR to 6. Engaging with such young and inherently curious minds proved to be an enriching experience. Their astounding responses to my questions left me nearly speechless, showcasing a level of understanding that defied their years. One student’s account of dedicating five hours to nightly stargazing stood out, a testament to the power of observing the night sky. Their depth of comprehension and insights into the roles and activities of scientists left me genuinely astounded.

Day 4 marked the commencement of my school visits in Mpumalanga, heralding another day of uncertainty and stress. While the challenge of explaining science in Sepedi remained, I now confronted the additional hurdle of communicating in Xitsonga. This is when Mr. Sibusiso Mdhluli, the Director of the Acornhoek Institute of Science and Technology, joined me, providing valuable support and lightening the communication load.

The presence of Sibusiso added an intriguing dynamic to the school visits. Observing him eloquently explain Astronomy in Xitsonga left me in awe, rendering me momentarily speechless. Once again, the level of engagement from the learners proved remarkable, their questions revealing untapped potential within these schools.

The fifth and final day of my National Science Week journey encompassed visits to two schools, both suggested by my mother. One was the high school attended by my younger sibling, while the other was the primary school where my mother had retired from her job. As anticipated, the high school students exhibited a level of chaos attributed to reduced interest, while the engagement from the younger students was more measured. By this juncture, however, fatigue had taken a toll, dulling the sting of potential disappointment.

The final school held a special significance due to its connection to my mother’s retirement. With this personal link in mind, it felt only fitting for my mother to accompany me during this visit. Witnessing Grade 5-7 learners still remembering my mother, who had taught them in Grade 2, filled my heart with warmth. The learners and teachers alike extended a warm and heartfelt welcome, encapsulating the sense of unity that the week had cultivated.

In retrospection, the week served as a profound revelation, allowing me to fulfill the role of a role model for aspiring scientists while also immersing me in the brilliance of young minds. The experience proved to be both gratifying and enlightening, facilitating interactions with students who radiated immense potential. The tapestry of memories, emotions, and insights woven during this week have etched an enduring experience. A medley of highs and lows, triumphs and challenges, laughter and introspection characterized the journey through schools in two provinces, guided by serendipity and personal connections. This expedition stands as a testament to the unifying power of science that can bridge gaps, transcend language barriers, and ignite the flames of curiosity within young minds. From the awe-inspiring magic of experiments to the spark of inquiry in young eyes and the camaraderie shared with fellow science enthusiasts, each encounter has left an indelible mark. As I reflect on National Science Week, I carry with me the resonance of connections forged and the hope that the seeds of inspiration sown will flourish, propelling these budding scientists and thinkers towards new horizons.