Profile: Bettie Longland celebrates 20-year Eskom Expo journey

The excitement showed by learners while participating in Eskom Expo for Young Scientists over the years, has remained a driving force for Bettie Longland during her 20 years with the organisation.

Longland, who is currently the Eskom Expo Regional Science Fair Director of the Gert Sibande region, was teaching at Hoërskool Menlopark in 1980 when she became involved with the organisation. This after obtaining a Chemistry, Physics and Maths qualification at the Normaal Kollege Pretoria in 1979.

“My Head of Department at the time, Barbara Schalb, was working closely with the late Dr Derek Gray, who founded Expo for Young Scientists in 1980. Ever since, I was involved with Expo in some way or another,” says Longland.

Dr Gray created Expo for Young Scientists as a platform for promising scientists and engineers to grow their passion for the sciences and realise their full potential, which Longland wanted to be a part of.

“Over the years, I have assisted learners in grade 8 and 9 at Hoërskool Menlopark with their Expo projects, and was also the organiser of Expo at the various schools where I taught over the years, including Hoërskool Evander, Hoërskool Oosterland and Hoërskool Hoogenhout,” says Longland.

“I was a member of the Expo regional committee since Sasol sponsored Expo during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and also the chairperson of the Mpumalanga Highveld Science Expo since 2004. I’ve been the Regional Science Fair Director of the Highveld region – now Gert Sibande – ever since,” Longland adds.

Currently, the Head of the Physical Sciences Department at Hoërskool Hoogenhout, Longland maintains that her love of science and working with people made her choose a career in education.

“Since I was in High school at Hoërskool Staatspresident C.R. Swart in Pretoria, I was crazy about science. I think it was my standard 8 (grade 10) teacher’s fault,” Longland says jokingly, adding that she believes that she played a vital role in the growth of Expo in the Mpumalanga province.

“Since 1996, 11 of my own school’s learners have participated in international exhibitions, with my support and encouragement. Learners who came from previously disadvantaged schools, and were given a chance to participate nationally, returned to school to help others to perform well,” says Longland.

Other highlights for Longland while at Expo include accompanying learners as a delegation leader to science fairs in Namibia, Thailand and Budapest; and also providing support to a learner with a promising project who received a bronze medal at a regional expo, who ended up representing South Africa at the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the US.

Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, Eskom Expo’s regional science fairs and International Science Fair had to be cancelled. Instead, online assessments will take place, with various prizes and bursaries up for grabs.

Longland encouraged learners to take part, saying now is the time to be creative.

“Use your imagination and think of solutions for the problems you experience now. Stay positive, sitting down and thinking about what could have been is morbid. See this time as a challenge that you can tackle with excellence. Be a winner! This is how we will survive. You are our future! You are able to overcome these setbacks by looking at it as a challenge, a challenge to grow, to be the best you can in the situation. Have a routine, get up exercise, stay healthy, do things you like. Good luck! You are survivors!” she says.

Teachers and learners who are interested in taking part in Eskom Expo in the Gert Sibande region, can contact Bettie Longland by calling 083 321 4057 or sending an email to eglongland@gmail.com.

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