The second annual March for Science in Durban held on 14 April saw an impressive turnout by students, scientists, civil society and government officials participating and making their voices heard in support of science, innovation and use of evidence to improve lives. The march attracted over 1 000 participants, a four-fold increase in numbers compared to the inaugural march held in 2017.
The Durban chapter of the March for Science was a partnership of six organisations: the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN); the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC): the South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA); the University of KwaZulu-Natal Medical Students Representative Council (MSRC), the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA); and Global Laboratories.
Convenor of the march and Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA, Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim said she was inspired and pleased with the large number of students from all disciplines at UKZN who participated in the march and extended special thanks to those who played a leadership role in organising the march.
Last year, Abdool Karim led the inaugural global March for Science in Durban that generated widespread interest as evidenced by the increased presence of members of the public joining the march. Of note was the increase in numbers of families especially those with young children who joined the march. UKZN’s Dr Tanya Reinhardt had both young and old enthralled by her experiments and “magic” and parents had a hard time getting their children to head back home.
Several speakers called for increased local investments in science. Speakers included: Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director of CAPRISA; Mr Ravi Pillay, MEC for Human Settlements, KwaZulu-Natal; Dr Koleka Mlisana, Head of the Department of Microbiology at UKZN; Professor Glenda Gray President, SAMRC; Mr Nithia Madurai, CEO of Global Laboratories; Councillor Khumalo from the Mayor’s Office at eThekwini Municipality; Mr Musa Mthembu, President of SAMSA; Mr Ahmed Raja, President of the MSRC and Dr Bonginkosi Mfuze.
‘Scientists in South Africa have made a profound contribution to advance science and to undertake scientific discoveries that are world class. The Durban March for Science is testament of our commitment to high impact science and research,’ said Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UKZN. Professor Glenda Gray said that countries like ‘South Africa need to see the value of investing in science.’ ‘Medical research has translated into lives saved and an increase in life expectancy in South Africa, showing the value of science in health,’ said Gray. ‘I stand for the March for Science because I strongly believe that science is a gift to humanity,’ said Mthembu. ‘It knows no country, no race, gender or age, because knowledge belongs to humanity and it is the torch that illuminates the world.’
Abdool Karim said she hoped that the march in Durban would catalyse new chapters across the African continent and in other cities in South Africa and looks forward to even greater participation of the public, students, decision makers and academics in 2019.
Words: Smita Maharaj