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South Africa

Techno Girl programme teaches essential skills to young South African females

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Marinovich
Khanyisile has been fortunate to grow up in a family that sees education as the recipe for success.

By Greg Marinovich and Marisol Gutierrez

GAUTENG, South Africa, 15 November 2011 - South Africa has a shortage of skills in science, technology and engineering. But surprisingly, the country’s girls have not been encouraged to pursue these traditionally male-dominated subjects, and often perform poorly in these fields when compared with boys. This contributes to reducing career opportunities – and earning potential – that girls would otherwise enjoy. But a dynamic programme called Techno Girl is set to turn this around.

Through the Techno Girl programme, young females are identified in underprivileged schools and placed in corporate mentorship and skills development initiatives. This career mentorship helps them gain confidence and links their school lessons to the skills they’ll need to succeed in the ‘real’ working world.

Bridging the gap

As a child, Khanyisile Mokele, 18, would hear stories of her uncle designing and building bridges, setting the stage for her own future ambition of becoming a civil engineer. “I want to design my own bridge!” she stated emphatically. “Bridges bring the world closer.”

An only child, Khanyisile has been fortunate to grow up in a family that sees education as the recipe for success. With her parents’ support and encouragement, she has always been motivated to achieve good results. Math and physics are no challenge for Khanyisile.

© UNICEF South Africa/2011/Marinovich

Khanyisile has applied to study civil engineering at the University of Technology in Tshwane, and has been accepted pending her final results this year. What has perhaps been the final step in her preparation for success was her selection and enthusiastic participation in the Techno Girl programme. It has exposed her to in-depth work shadowing, and she has been able to attend workshops held by successful businesswomen about important yet neglected aspects of success in the workplace.

Preparing for success

Lenasia’s M.H Joosub School teacher, Burhaan Parbhoo has taught math to Techno Girl Khanyisile for three years. She is only one of his young stars - five girls from the school were selected for the Techno Girls programme. And the fact that two have already gone on to university, and another, Lulama Jajola, scored top marks at M.H Joosub School last year, is testament to both the success of the programme and the dedication of teachers like Parbhoo.

“The common factors for successful learners are hard work, dedication and working smartly, as well as parental interest in the child’s education,” he said.

Positive results

Parbhoo emphasizes the role of parents in helping children to reach their potential, but in many homes parents work and have little time to help with homework; and then there are the children with no parents, who have to fend for themselves.

“A school needs dedicated teachers and learners,” he explained. “Even though this is one of the poorest schools in Lenasia, we had the highest pass rate here in 2010 - 93 per cent.”

While no single initiative can claim all the credit for those excellent results, the Techno Girl programme can certainly lay claim to some of the school’s success. After all, it’s not only the participating girls who benefit from the opportunities. “When these girls get exposed to work shadowing in the holidays, they share their experiences with the other children at school,” said a smiling Parbhoo. “This motivates everyone – which is very positive.”

The Techno Girl programme is a is a collaboration between the Department for Women, Children and people with Disabilities, the public and private sectors and UNICEF.



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