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South Africa, 9 November 2011: ‘Techno Girl’ programme tackles skills shortage

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Marinovich
South African ‘Techno Girl’ Khanyisile Mokele, 18, in her bedroom in Soweto, Johannesburg.

Over 4,250 girls placed in corporate mentorship and job-shadowing programmes since 2007

JOHANNESBURG / PRETORIA, South Africa, 14 November 2011 – An innovative public-private partnership, seeking to reverse the growing skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in South Africa, is encouraging girls to pursue careers in these fields by giving them first-hand, real-world experience.

The ‘Techno Girl’ programme identifies 15- to 18-year-old schoolgirls from disadvantaged communities and places them in corporate mentorship and job-shadowing programmes. The programme is a collaboration between the Department for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, the public and private sectors, and UNICEF. Since its inception in 2007, the programme has reached over 4,250 girls.

During a business breakfast last week, the Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, recognized the achievements of the programme and called on companies and professional organizations to join.

“We are giving girls the opportunity to excel in the fields that the country’s economy requires,” said Ms. Xingwana. “To be inspired to succeed, they need to have a solid understanding of the industries and to be guided regarding subject choices and tertiary education, while they are still at school.”

Opportunities for girls

There is growing concern that South Africa is not preparing a sufficient number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A large majority of secondary-school learners fail to reach proficiency in maths and science. Compared to other nations in global tests, the maths and science achievements of South African learners at grade three are significantly below average.

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Marinovich
‘Techno Girls’ Khanyisile Mokele (left) and Petunia Matodzi (right), with peers at their school in South Africa.

For girls, the situation is much worse, with less than a third taking maths or science in secondary school. The fields of science, technology and engineering are traditionally dominated by men, and girls are often not encouraged at school to pursue these careers. This contributes to reducing the career opportunities – and earning potential – that girls would otherwise enjoy.

“UNICEF is confident that over the coming years, Techno Girl will reach even more girls, inspiring them 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 UNICEF Representative in South Africa Aida Girma.

Advancing rights and equity

A 2010 survey of Techno Girl participants showed that after going through the programme, 94 percent had a better understanding of the working world and the skills required for the various careers to which they were exposed.

For Khanyisile Mokele, 18, participating in Techno Girl has strengthened her confidence and determination to become a civil engineer. “I want to design my own bridge,” she says. “Bridges bring the world closer.”

With a focus on girls from disadvantaged backgrounds – particularly in rural areas – the programme is founded on the principle of equity. The expansion of the programme by the Government of South Africa shows the country’s commitment to advancing the rights of girls and women.

 

 
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