Techno Girl programme empowers girls in choosing the right career

Monday, August 26, 2013

By Gabi Khumalo

When Sinenhlanhla Dlamini tells people that she is studying Radiography, most people assume that she will probably have a career in the radio industry one day.

“Most people don’t know what a radiographer does and when they say ‘oh, which radio station do you work at?’, I have to explain that I take pictures but very specialised pictures and radiography has got nothing to do with taking pictures for any newspaper or magazine,” Dlamini smiles.

While many matriculants study courses they have never heard of before and end up dropping out during their first year, the 20-year-old from Daveyton in Benoni, with a little bit of help, found the right study path.  

Thanks to the Techno Girl Job Shadowing programme -- which exposed Dlamini to the work place in 2010 -- she was able to make an informed decision about the career she wanted to pursue whilst in high school. By then, she knew almost everything about the course, and what to expect.

Dlamini is a product of the programme, which has seen close to 4 000 girls being exposed to the work environment.

The Techno Girl programme is a partnership between the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, public and private sector institutions and UNICEF.

Through the programme, young girls are identified in underprivileged schools and placed in corporate mentorship and skills development initiatives.

Dlamini was placed at the Johannesburg Roads Agency for job shadowing, where she was placed at the electrical department since she was doing electrical technology as one of her subjects. This was a blessing in disguise, she says, as she immediately knew, when entering the department that she was not meant to do that particular job.

“I wanted to go into the medical field and change peoples’ lives. One day, I went to an open day and that’s where I discovered radiography and I said ‘bang, this is the way to go’.”

She admits that while she enjoys her course, it is also very difficult. “It’s the only course I can think of, where you have to study and do your practicals at the same time. You work like a normal qualified person, 9 - 5 or 8 to 4 and have to go back home and study.”

She thanks her father for his influence and for always telling her that education is the key to success, no matter what happens.

“I’m grateful that I’m the first from the family to go to university and hope that I’m setting a good example for my siblings. My father is the most inspirational dad. He would sit us down and tell us that he grew up like this and had to work in the garden at the age of 12 in order to pay for his school fees.

“Today, I go to school and study to be the best person I can be to change my lifestyle and where I come from,” an emotional Dlamini says.

Dlamini, who is passionate about helping people, says she would also like to be an oncologist and make a difference in the lives of people who are suffering from cancer.

She reminds her peers to take care of their parents, especially their mothers.

“Behind a successful man there is a woman. There is a woman who was nagging him to wake up, brush your teeth, do this and that. We tend to think that our mothers are nagging but they are doing the best they can. One of my friends said when we are children, our parents work towards helping us take the first steps of life, why can’t we help them take the last steps of their lives?”

In ensuring that more girls complete their tertiary education and get jobs, the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, officially launched the Techno Girl Alumni Association recently.

The programme -- a partnership between the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, UNICEF, State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and UWESO Consulting -- follows the successful Techno-Girl Job Shadowing Programme rollout in 2009.

The Techno Girl Alumni programme aims to continue giving support to beneficiaries to ensure a higher completion rate at tertiary level. Through the alumni programme, the girls will receive support to access job opportunities in their chosen fields of study upon completing their studies.

Speaking at the launch, Xingwana said they wanted Techno Girls to run the economy, a move that would show “the struggle by women in 1956 was not in vain”.

She encouraged young girls to get an education.

“Whatever degree you take, it opens doors - it is a key. It gives you the ability to use logic, the ability to analyse any situation and the ability to think scientifically,” Xingwana told the girls. – 

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