Aiming to inspire school girls and highlight the importance of mathematics, the Science Learning Centre for Africa, at the University of the Western Cape, held its annual Women in Mathematics Mini-Conversation at the Capetonian Hotel in the city centre on Thursday August 3.
To mark Women’s Month, they invited 125 girls from 25 high schools on the Cape Flats, among them pupils from Rocklands Secondary School, Spine Road High School, Lentegeur Secondary School and Princeton High School.
Five successful role models from disadvantaged backgrounds addressed the pupils and spoke about the importance of mathematics, and the difference maths has made in their careers.
The guest speakers were Dr Maryam Fish, Dr Ronalda Benjamin, Nicolette Jacobs, Dr Mathabatha Setati and Professor Priscilla Baker, representing the disciplines of biotechnology, chartered accounting, chemistry, genetics and mathematics.
Dr Fish, who specialises in human genetics, said mathematics had always been one of her favourite subjects and had played a major role in her career.
“I have had really supportive teachers throughout my schooling,” she said.
“As a pupil, I took part in various competitions and olympiads, which kept me motivated. It is important to note that maths was an important subject that helped me enter into my field of study.
“Maths opens many doors for opportunities, so I would encourage you to continue taking pure maths as a subject and work hard at it,” she said.
Dr Benjamin, who specialises in mathematics, said while growing up in Worcester, she was exposed to gangsterism and drugs.
“Because I didn’t want to be part of what was going on in the area, I made the choice to work hard and remain focused. I eventually got into Stellenbosch University and from there on succeeded in my studies and career.
“It wasn’t easy and yes, there were times when I struggled. But, with this subject you cannot give up. You have to push and push until you understand a concept and solve the problem – which is what I am encouraging you pupils to do, while you are at school,” she said.
Spine Road high pupils said they had found the event interesting and informative.
Ilhaam Dharsey said: “What a wonderful session, filled with positive messages. It is great to hear and see how these women have achieved despite their circumstances. We were encouraged to work hard and that’s what we intend to do.”
Rocklands High School teacher Vivienne Roberts said events like these were important for pupils as it kept them motivated. “They have heard about the different careers they can enter by having maths as a subjects. Then, they have heard about the success stories of the women, so we hope they took in, work hard and most importantly excel at the subject,” she said.