Girls can reach for the stars, too

2015-06-23 06:00
Above: Tamaryne Bimray is one of the schoolgirls to learn skills like soldering as part of a programme to encourage women to take up jobs in the maths, science and engineering sectors.

PHOTOS: 
nicole mccain

Above: Tamaryne Bimray is one of the schoolgirls to learn skills like soldering as part of a programme to encourage women to take up jobs in the maths, science and engineering sectors. PHOTOS: nicole mccain

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Girls in communities across Cape Town are learning skills like soldering, as the Micro Enterprise Development Organisation (Medo) rolls out a programme to encourage women to take up jobs in maths, science and engineering.

After partnering with big business, Medo identified that there is a considerable shortage of technical skills required to fulfil the needs of businesses in this country. Not just boys

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers – of which there are scarce skills – represent eight of the top 10 occupations in demand in South Africa.

However, the 2014 matric results saw only 7.6% of pupils passing Maths with more than 60%, while 5.5% managed the same in Physical Science.

This need gave rise to an ambitious plan to pull more youth into these underskilled industries.

The plan focuses on teaching schoolgirls technical skills. The programme will see Medo launching the first privately owned satellite in Africa, which the pupils will have a part in sending to space.

The ultimate aim is for these young women to construct the payload to be launched with the satellite early next year.

A group of young women from schools around Cape Town were taught some of these skills last week in a workshop. By the end of the day each participant had built and soldered their own robot – from scratch – that can be controlled in movement, light and sound.

Tamaryne Bimray, who attended the workshop last week, says the new skills empower girls in a field traditionally associated with men.

“The programme inspires girls to create things that would usually be made by boys. We learnt to solder a circuit board, adding a battery, resistor and light,” she explains.

Learning about engineering and making things are skills that should be rolled out to all women, believes Maymoonah Stegmann, another participant.

“More girls should learn this. It’s not just boys that can do it,” she says.Satellite

The programme will run a series of half-day workshops to introduce young women to electronics and the basics of practical science, followed by a week-long camp during the school holidays during which they will design and test their satellite experiments. Finally, pupils will be offered extended school holiday internships with Medo to finalise the designs and build the satellite.

“The intention of this programme is not to be a once-off; it is to be the start of at least a decade-long drive to inspire young people to enter the science and technical fields,” says Medo CEO Judi Sandrock.


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