Two women educators born in the greater Soweto area, now a minister and a professor respectively, on Monday 7 August inspired high school learners to take charge of their careers with Maths and Science. Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, and the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Prof Debra Meyer, were speaking at the start of National Science Week at the UJ Soweto campus.
Over 500 Maths and Science learners from high schools in the Soweto area attended the event, which is hosted annually by the Soweto Science Centre, which resides within the UJ Faculty of Science.
“I always advise young people, when you have chosen Maths and Science, university courses don’t choose you; you choose them. With those two subjects, you can decide what you want to do. If you say you want to do Medicine or Engineering for example, they’ll say you can’t do that unless you have Maths and Science,” said Minister Motshekga to the learners.
“Every year when we announce our Matric results, I interview the top learners. I ask them, how did it happen that you are the top Grade 12 learner? What is special about you? Not one of them has ever said ‘I’m gifted’, or ‘I’m very intelligent’,” added the Minister.
Last year, she asked the top learner the same question.
“He said, ‘Minister, from primary school I was focused on my studies. I can’t sleep until I have done my Maths problem for the day. On Saturdays, before I do anything else, I do homework for two hours.’
“So anybody can do it, is what he was telling me. I’m appealing to you, be aware of the immense power you have in your hands as Maths and Science students. Don’t let go, use every opportunity you have. I was born down the road here in Soweto. I’m saying focus on the Maths and Science that will build your future,” said the Minister.
Prof Meyer extended the Minister’s appeal, saying: “I’m from Eldorado Park. For me it is key to convince people, and to say science is not outside your reach. I have a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the United States, but my undergraduate training was in South Africa, and at school, I studied in the townships. So I’m inviting you: study the sciences and come and get my job. It’s waiting for you in the future.”