Young girls get science, tech skills

Thursday, November 4, 2010
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Johannesburg - A dynamic programme was re-launched today to help turn the tide against the growing shortage of young girls pursuing careers in the science and technology fields.

Through the project, girls aged between 15 and 18 from disadvantaged communities will be placed in corporate mentorship and job shadowing programmes to give them first hand real world experience. The jobs will be in the science and technology fields.

Since its inception in 2007, the programme, which is in collaboration between the department, public and private sectors and UNICEF has reached over 4 250 girls and by the end of December, the programme is expected to reach girls child in all the provinces.

Speaking at the re-launch of the programme on Friday, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana said through the programme, more and more girls will pursue fields of maths, science, technology and engineering through the internship, they will no longer feel intimidated by the subjects.

"It is an important intervention that seeks to reverse this unfortunate situation by providing girls with the opportunity and skills to become productive participants in the economy and to empower them to make positive decisions that affect their lives.

"It gives young girls the skills, confidence and power to create a better life for themselves and their communities," Xingwana said.

She encouraged beneficiaries of the programme to commit to working hard and be role models for other girls who will tomorrow want to be part of the programme.

Deputy Minister for Higher Education and Training Hlengiwe Mkhize said the programme was central to her department as it is expected to create a skills pipeline.

"The programme is a top priority to skill young people in critical areas," Mkhize said.

Airports Company South Africa's Group Specialist under Performance and Talent Management, Zogan Opperman said that the company supports the development of young girls and committed to take 20 girls from Grade 10 to 12 for internship and also invest in computer programmes to be run on an annual basis.

"They will be spread in all the airports in the country, where they will be exposed in the work aviation planning, human resources and finance."

UNICEF representative, Aida Girma said the programme was a shining example of successful partnership which benefits children.

"Partnerships makes the system work better, it can transform society," Girma said, adding that through the programme, 94 percent of beneficiaries have already entered the world of work with some admitted at tertiary institutions.

Beneficiary Nomthandazo Bhembe from Tembisa said the programme has helped with her application to the university, where she is currently studying a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry.

"It also helped me in opening my eyes on other careers and in choosing a career path...it made me realised that I can be a civil engineer or anything I want.

"I wish more girls get the opportunity I got. In five years time I'll be a qualified analytical chemist," said an optimistic 18 year old.