A celebratory breakfast marking ten years since the launch of two outreach programmes affiliated to the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB), was held at FABI on November 20. The breakfast brought together old friends of the CTHB, the FABI management team, as well as postgraduate mentors and their charges.

Launched a year after the founding of the CTHB, the CTHB Mentoring Programme and the Mpepu Rural Youth Encouragement (MRYE) have since reached out to hundreds of undergraduate students and high school learners. Retired CTHB administrative officer, Jenny Hale, joined Professors Brenda Wingfield, Emma Steenkamp, Mike Wingfield, Noelani van den Berg, Teresa Coutinho and Bernard Slippers, Drs Martin Coetzee and Kershney Naidoo, current administrative officer Heidi Fysh, and MRYE co-founder, Samukelo Vilakazi in celebrating the programmes’ anniversary.

Prof. Brenda Wingfield said MRYE had "gelled well" with the CTHB programme since Samukelo and fellow undergraduate Engineering students approached her for support in 2005. She said the CTHB mentoring programme has been so successful that the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences had modelled its mentorship programmes on them.

Prof. Mike Wingfield awarded the undergraduate students certificates for participating in the mentorship programme. Second and third year science students accepted into the mentorship programme are paired with postgraduate students in the CTHB. The senior students devote six hours a week to their mentees and acquaint them with laboratory skills, scientific principles and protocols.

Samukelo said MRYE had found a home in the CTHB and because of this support it could continue to uplift rural youth in eight provinces. MRYE members travel to rural schools to motivate high school learners, inform them about university courses and bursary opportunities available to them after they complete Grade 12.