College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

UKZN Partners with Johnson & Johnson on WiSTEM2D Programme

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UKZN has joined Johnson & Johnson in its Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing and Design (WiSTEM2D) initiative which aims to increase the number of women who enter and graduate from undergraduate programmes with degrees in STEM2D.

The ambitious initiative is a multifaceted approach to support and inspire girls and women of all ages in their pursuit of STEM2D (science, technology, engineering, maths, manufacturing and design) studies and careers.

In a recent virtual awards ceremony, the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies generously awarded scholarships to 26 deserving women students in science at UKZN.

Commenting on the awards, UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Nana Poku acknowledged that the challenges of gender equality were a wide societal problem, saying ‘the workplace is the ideal spot to educate the next generation and to empower the future generation of young women. The 20 remarkable women selected are the change makers of the future and I salute this partnership.’

The UKZN and Johnson & Johnson collaboration began last year aimed at raising awareness of WiSTEM2D across UKZN and high schools within the Institution’s feeder area. The project was initiated through the leadership of the School of Education, working collaboratively with the School of Built Environment and Development Studies’ architecture programme, the School of Mathematics and Statistics, and the SARChI Chair in the School of Engineering.

The Director of Sub-Sahara Africa, J&J Global Community Impact, Ms Laura Nel, said: ‘The collaboration focuses on bursaries to female students to support academic success in a range of areas across the STEM2D fields and the development of a model to increase women in STEM2D, using research generated by the bursary students.’

Bursary recipients will also be mentored by senior students and women academics throughout their period of study.

Education student Ms Kerina Mothilal said: ‘I am honoured to receive this award. With my passion for teaching and moulding young minds, I will use this platform to encourage and develop a love for mathematics and science in young girls in the schools I teach in.’

Said Architecture student Ms Aphiwe Tshazi: ‘Being a woman in science is challenging yet rewarding. As I am among the first group of recipients, I plan to create a community for young women scientists in which they can explore and share their ideas and innovations in science.’

Masters in Data Science student Ms Thandokazi Jantjies said: ‘This scholarship enables us to give back to communities. We are motivated to inspire other young girls to pursue careers in STEM.’

SARChI Chair in Waste and Climate and UKZN team leader for the project Professor Cristina Trois said: ‘Female master’s and undergraduate Engineering students had been selected to serve as ambassadors for the Discipline and to attract bright young female minds to follow a career in sustainable engineering.’

As part of the programme, grant funding totaling more than R1.3 million has been provided to support programmes over the past two years aimed at attracting more female students into STEM2D studies and understanding what some of the barriers are.

The programme also focuses on community outreach to promote learning and skills development/advancement directed primarily to attract and retain female high school leavers (Grade 10 to 12) entering the University into STEM2D subjects, including teacher-training subjects, and to develop them to become accomplished academics/scientists and/or professionals.

Dean and Head of the School of Education Professor Thabo Msibi said: ‘In the School of Education, top performing female students majoring in Science, Mathematics and Computer Science are awarded bursaries and mentorship to successfully complete their studies. In-service teachers will also be supported to improve the teaching of Mathematics and Science through targeted workshops. Top performing learners from Dinaledi schools will receive mentorship and support to successfully secure a space in STEM2D related university subjects.’

Dean and Head of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies Professor Ernest Khalema added: ‘Like all scarce skills fields within the built environment, the Discipline of Architecture has been historically challenged with attracting young Black South African-born female students from quantile1-3. This intervention will ensure that qualifying and talented students are attracted to the programme, nurtured through a mentorship programme, and in turn act as ambassadors for the University-led project and as mentors for other students within the STEM programme, providing an opportunity for interdisciplinary engagement and learning.’

Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Professor Delia North said: ‘Five female Data Science and Statistics students at master’s, honours and final-year levels have been selected to receive J&J bursaries based on their prowess and class participation. The girls will form the kernel of a Women in Analytics female ambassador team and act as role models and mentors to learners at school and at entry level to university. I am most appreciative of the generous sponsorship from J&J which has afforded these outstanding young ladies the opportunity to further their studies in 2021.’

Scholarship recipients are:

•    Kekelwa Akombelwa

•    Keyosia Chain

•    Kiasha Chetty

•    Yolanda Dladla

•    Taryn Enoch

•    Nokuthula Gumede

•    Zamanguni Gumede

•    Thandokazi Jantjies

•    Johara Khan

•    Nokubonga Madondo

•    Shiluba Maluleke

•    Mbalenhle Mkhize

•    Kerina Mothilal

•    Yolanda Mpanza

•    Siyethemba Mthembu

•    Nobuhle Mthethwa

•    Sinakhokonke Mweli

•    Zamasomi Mzoneli

•    Maranka Naidoo

•    Shalyn Pennington

•    Yarissa Ragavaloo

•    Sadhna Ramklaas

•    Pretty Sibiya

•    Lusanda Sineke

•    Aphiwe Tshazi

•    Luyanda Zikalala

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Image: Supplied