GIRL children have become the focus of a new science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) initiative thanks to the help of the Techno Girl programme run by Transnet, government, Unicef and Uweso Consulting.
About 50 girls from previously-disadvantaged schools in the Eastern Cape from Grades 9 to 12 were chosen on the basis of their maths and maths literacy results to participate in the programme.
During the June leg of the programme, the girls spent their time shadowing employees at the Transnet Rail Engineering (TRE) centre in Uitenhage. The girls spent 10 days at the plant from June 25 to July 6. Their next visit will be in October when they will stay for five days.
TRE spokeswoman Milisa Mboya said the experience was a first-time encounter with the working world for the girls involved.
"A girl will enter the programme whilst completing Grade 9, continue the programme during Grade 10 and 11 and exit upon completion of Grade 12. For most of the girls this was their first encounter with the working environment. The girls were eager and excited about this wonderful opportunity to shadow various business managers and to learn more about the core function of TRE,” Mboya said.
During the programme, business managers at Transnet have to ensure that the pupils are introduced to all the careers or jobs and job functions within various departments ranging from operations, engineering, maintenance electrical and mechanical and communication.
Uitenhage High School Grade 9 pupil Noluvuyo Khokwana said the site visit had changed her mind about what she wanted to study in the future.
"At first I wanted to study medicine and become a doctor but when I came here, I start reconsidering it. I really didn’t know about the other things they do here and I have learnt a lot since I got here,” she said.
The core function of TRE is to provide maintenance, repair, upgrade, manufacturing and support services to freight rail in South Africa and to other rail and terminal operators both regionally and internationally.
Mboya said the programme aims to increase the number of young women working in Stem fields.
"Techno Girl is about increasing and enhancing the participation of girls in careers in Stem. A lot of women are underrepresented in fields of Stem and one of the major objectives of this programme is to expose girls to various careers within Stem. A critical part of the programme is for the girls to make the linkage between working hard at school and making correct subject choices in order to enter a career in Stem,” she said.