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Launch of STEM MentHER programme at SU
Author: Faculty of Science (media and communication)
Published: 13/04/2023

The first cohort of STEM MentHER learners were paired with their mentors at Stellenbosch University (SU) during a special ceremony on Wednesday, 4 April 2023.

The STEM MentHER programme is an initiative to guide and streamline female Grade 12 learners into the STEM fields of study: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Successful candidates are mentored by female academics and postgraduate students, gain access to tailor-made programmes with the objective of becoming  role models for other female learners in their environments.

The STEM MentHER programme was started by Dr Lungile Sithole and Dr Cerene Rathilal from the University of Johannesburg. The programme is now also rolled out at Stellenbosch University under the leadership of Dr Ronalda Benjamin, a lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and is supported by the National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Sciences (NITheCS). The nine learners were selected amongst more than one hundred applicants from Cape schools.

During the ceremony Dr Benjamin encouraged the learners to make full use of their mentors: “I wish I had access to someone from university to get advice from while I was at school," she said.

Prof. Francesco Petruccione, interim director of NITheCS, said young scientists and engineers have the opportunity to shape the evolution of Artificial Intelligence tools such as ChatGPT: “Artificial Intelligence is pervasive and will shape everything. You should be part of the generation who shapes the evolution of this tool. These are exciting times for those who know how to use the tool (and not for those who are scared of it)".

In the closing remarks, Prof. Ingrid Rewitzky, head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at SU, said students should not focus on singular moments of success or failure, but rather visualise their careers as a continuously evolving journey, adapting to challenges along the way and learning from failures in order to be better prepared the next time round: “It is a process. Throughout our lives we learn. Do what is in your hearts and embrace this opportunity," she concluded.

The learners and their mentors are:

Siphesihle Gama, Spine Road High School, to be mentored by Dr Kathleen Green, Agile Methodologies consultant; Raighaana Schroeder, Spine Road High School, to be mentored by Dr Shareefa Dalvi from the University of Cape Town; Rencha Hamman-Johnson, Hoërskool D.F. Malan, to be mentored by Dr Cara Haller from the Faculty of Engineering at SU; Saskia Human, Parel Vallei High School, mentored by) Dr Taskeen Ebrahim, Faculty of Engineering at SU; Stephanie McCreath, Parel Vallei High School, mentored by Anneri Aspeling, MSc student in Engineering, SU; Imaan Samuels, Parel Vallei High School, mentored by Dr Retha Heymann from the Faculty of Science at SU; Neo Ndlovu, Wynberg Girls' High School, mentored by Prof. Karin Howell from the Faculty of Science at SU; Kouthar Saliem, Wynberg Girls' High School, mentored by Ms Jacobie Mouton, computer scientist, and Catherine Wills, Wynberg Girls' High School, mentored by Dr Ronalda Benjamin.