Simphiwe Madlanga (32)

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2018 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans


Simphiwe Madlanga (32)

Science communicator

Serial student and proponent of continuous learning, Simphiwe Madlanga believes a great education not only trains the mind but helps people make informed decisions, improving the odds for positive outcomes in their lives.

As a geologist working for the National Research Foundation as a science communicator at an astronomy and space geodesy research facility, Madlanga is passionate about outreach, and works with schools, youth and educator workshops for teachers needing support with natural science.

“The more I study and experience, the more I want to share my learning, and help others grow and develop,” says Madlanga.

“Leveraging my science training with creativity, I provide practical, innovative and impactful demonstrations that give teachers and learners a better understanding of scientific concepts.

Madlanga believes strongly in demystifying the complexities of science, particularly radio astronomy, and provides motivational insights and career guidance to aspiring young scientists. “I believe people struggle with science concepts only because things seem too abstract for them. I strive to personalise things, and to demonstrate the power of science by linking it to normal, everyday experiences in the world around us. Many ‘a-ha’ moments happen when one is able to highlight the relevance of science by linking it to a layperson’s direct realm of experience.”

Madlanga says his greatest challenge is maintaining a balance between adhering to the school curriculum and enhancing learners’ experiences by providing a broader approach to learning.

“Our work needs to complement that of the department of basic education, yet not be limited by prescribed textbooks. When teaching, I challenge myself to be creative, and [am] constantly improving best practice by finding new ways to engage the public when communicating about science.

“I am where I am in life because of people who helped me along the way, supported me and my aspirations, even made decisions on my behalf when I was too young to make my own – all for my benefit. I respect the privilege of being able to proudly declare that I will always be a lifelong learner because of the solid foundation I received early in life,” says Madlanga.

“I remind myself often that ‘people are your success’, and I aspire to live that through my endeavours to help as many people as I can. Being educated, I have an even greater responsibility to those who have less.” — Linda Doke

Twitter: @SYM_Madlanga