Techno-Girl Alumni to ensure more girls finish varsity

Friday, August 23, 2013
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Johannesburg – The Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, has officially launched the Techno-Girl Alumni Association, which will ensure more girls complete their tertiary education and get jobs.

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.

More than 10 000 girls, aged between 15 and 18, were exposed to the work environment during school holidays through the programme.

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.

The Techno-Girl Alumni Association will serve to:

• Position the programme as an effective and high performing response to promoting the uptake among women of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) careers;

•Track the impact of the programme over the medium and long term;

•Create a pool of role models to inspire future programme beneficiaries;

•Provide support and motivate programme beneficiaries during the course of their studies at higher education institutions and FET colleges;

•Track the completion rate and placement of beneficiaries in STEM careers.

Speaking at the launch on Friday, Xingwana said the association will ensure that past Techno-Girl beneficiaries reinvest their time and experience to mentor and encourage beneficiaries who are still in the programme, either at school or higher education institutions.

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

“It is important for our girls and boys to go to school and study. This is what our grandmothers and mothers fought for. Whatever degree you take, it doesn’t matter… it opens doors, and we hope many more will benefit from this programme,” Xingwana said.

She acknowledged the contribution of the Gauteng City Region Academy and Transnet, who, since the rollout of Techno-Girl, have endeavoured to provide bursaries to all qualifying Techno-Girls who had applied for admission to higher education institutions to study in STEM fields. 

“Were it not for this funding, a significant number of girls would not be in a position to fund their studies.”

Empowerment through job shadowing

Transnet has also distinguished itself as a job shadowing host organisation with the single biggest intake of girls.  An astounding 1 000 girls attend job shadowing at Freight Rail and 300 at Transnet Engineering. 

Xingwana said an agreement has been reached with Transnet Port Terminals for the placement of a further 180 girls.  Moreover, Transnet National Ports Authority has committed to host 140 girls across their seven ports.

“Over the course of the next few years, these girls will join the Techno-Girl Alumni programme and be empowered to access relevant and in demand careers. The value of this contribution to equitable human capital development is immeasurable,” she said.

UNICEF South Africa Representative, Aida Grima, described the programme as a shining example of what successful partnerships between the public and the private sector can achieve, with the children of South Africa benefiting the most.

She also stressed the need to inspire girls to succeed.

“To ensure that girls have an equal opportunity to excel in the fields that the economy requires, they need to be inspired to succeed, helped with subject choices and guided regarding tertiary education, while still at school.  

“UNICEF is confident that over the coming years, the Alumni Association will have more girls joining the association to become the scientists and engineers, who will ensure a bright future not only for themselves and their families, but the country as a whole,” said Grima.

One of the Techno-Girl programme beneficiaries, Keneilwe Masemola, 18, is now a first-year BCom Economics and Econometrics Degree student at the University of Johannesburg. She described the programme as a “godsend”. She attributed her ambition to the programme.

Keneilwe was amongst the girls chosen in 2010 to job shadow at the South African Reserve Bank during the school holidays. She said this gave her an opportunity to explore the different jobs in finance.

“This experience opened a whole new chapter in my life because when I started, I wanted to become a doctor. During the programme, I discovered a lot of careers that I was ignorant of and every person that I shadowed would ask me what I wanted to become when I grow up.

“This caused me to change my school subjects and everyone was astonished by my sudden change. Some people did not even approve of it, saying it was too late, but I had just discovered myself and all I wanted was to become an economist,” said Keneilwe with confidence. – SAnews.gov.za