Techno Girl Programme tackles skills shortage in South Africa
Over 4,250 girls have been placed in corporate mentorship and job shadowing programmes since 2007
4 November 2011, Johannesburg/Pretoria – 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 15–18-year-old school girls 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 people 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 today, the Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Lulu Xingwana, recognised the achievements of the programme and called on companies and professional organisations to join the programme.
“We are giving girls the opportunity to excel in the fields that the country’s economy requires,” said 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.”
There has been a 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, and when compared to other nations in global tests, the maths and science achievements of South African learners at grade 3 were significantly below average.
For girls, the situation is much worse – with less than a third of girls taking maths or science in the secondary school years. The fields of science, technology and engineering are traditionally dominated by men, and girls are often not encouraged at school level 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 Aida Girma.
A 2010 survey conducted with girls who had been part of the Techno Girl programme showed that 94 per cent has a better understanding of the working world and the skills requirements of the various careers they were exposed to.
For 18-year-old Khanyisile Mokele participating in Techno Girl has grown 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. Scale-up of the programme by the Government of South Africa shows the country’s commitment to advancing the rights of girls and women.