Thea Ernest. Picture: Supplied
Thea Ernest. Picture: Supplied

KZN pupil heading to Antarctica with renowned explorer

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Jan 12, 2021

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Durban - Antarctica, are you ready for Thea Juanita Earnest?

That was the question posed by Earnest, one of five matric pupils who would be joining explorer Riaan Manser and a team of professors from Stellenbosch University on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica.

Ayakha Melithafa, Cobus Burger, Boiketlo Lamula and Kelby Barker will be joining Earnest in the inaugural Matrics in Antarctica adventure.

Thea Earnest, 18, is part of the matric class of 2020, and one of the five matric pupils who will be heading to Antarctica.

The Mountview Secondary School pupil said Matrics in Antarctica was an “incredible opportunity” brought to her by the school’s HOD of the Language Department, Meloshnee Pillay.

“Being an individual who is extremely passionate about inclusive, progressive and sustainable development, especially when the environment is concerned, made this opportunity an incredible platform for me to voice my opinions,” said Earnest.

What got her in was her application, which she did amid her final exam.

Earnest said she wrote an article explaining why saving the environment is important to her and what initiatives she engaged in, in order to allow her passions to bear fruition. She was then shortlisted for the Top 100, after which she had to submit a 2-3 minute video explaining what her passions are, what set her apart as a matric pupil, and how she can use this experience to develop a culture of conservation in her community. She was shortlisted for the top 50 and then top 10. The final part of the selection process was an interview with the selection panel.

“This opportunity to journey with the best professors, scientists and explorers in the world to Antarctica will undoubtedly allow me to engage with the best as I aspire to become a geospatial scientist, wanting to study at Wits University in 2021. Collaborating with science and technology in order to conserve and preserve this planet has been a dream of mine,” said Earnest.

She said growing up, she always wanted to be a symbol of change in her community, where young women and people of colour can see their faces reflected in hers and know that change and mobilisation is possible. This has been her driving force growing up in her community in KZN.

“Without my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I would not be able to embody such passion and drive. His grace and mercy has seen me through one of the most turbulent yet rewarding school years of my life,” said Earnest.

She said she was grateful to her supportive family, her father, mother and sister. She added her school, headed by IC Govender and teachers as supportive as Pillay.

Earnest will be travelling between January 20 and 30, and will be engaging in experiments, work at a research station, camping adventures and a lot more.

Manser said they did not want the top maths and science pupils, but pupils with potential, and they thought they got very close to that.

Manser said the five who would not be going to Antarctica would be hosted by Professor Fadli Wagiet and his team, who would take them to De Hoop Nature Reserve in the middle of February.

The Daily News

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