Young black women succeed in engineering

Despite declining interest in engineering studies among women, according to a recent engineering report, there are a few who are still passionate about this field.

One such young woman is Aphiwe Jikazana. The 24 year old who hails all the way from East London, is a Stellenbosch University Chemical engineering graduate.

Aphiwe Jikazana, an engineering graduate from Stellenbosch University, who is heading for the UK to do her Masters.

Aphiwe Jikazana, an engineering graduate from Stellenbosch University, who is heading for the UK to do her Masters.

After matriculating, Aphiwe chose to study at Stellenbosch University.  Out of the many reasons she chose the institution, she says: “I was not treated like a number, I felt like they wanted me there as a student.”

Engineering was Aphiwe’s first choice. She says “it was the only thing I wanted to do”.

Aphiwe not only took up leadership positions but was a mentor and House committee member at her residence Lydia. After finishing her degree she became a faculty mentor helping first-year students.

Working as a mentor she realised that students often did not struggle because they were academically incapable, but because of personal and financial problems. “It was great to help where I could,” she says.

After completing her studies in 2015 Aphiwe decided that she would obtain her master’s degree abroad. “I’ve always wanted to go overseas.”

Aphiwe took a gap in 2016 in order apply for bursaries and eventually attained the FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar bursary to pursue a Master’s degree in Water and Wastewater Engineering at the prestigious Cranfield University in England.

Another woman passionate about the field is Andisiwe Gulubele, a 22-year-old Chemical Engineering graduate from Khayelitsha, now based in East London. She is a Validation Engineer at the pharmaceutical company Aspen Pharmacare.

Andisiwe Gulubele at her graduation ceremony at CPUT.

Andisiwe Gulubele at her graduation ceremony at CPUT.

Although her first option was to study medicine at Stellenbosch University, her dream was short lived as she was rejected. Andisiwe did not despair. “I always aim high and the next best thing was engineering,” she says. She enrolled for the Chemical engineering course at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Andisiwe recounts her journey as being very tough, having late nights and early mornings, saying “it took every single part of me and I gave it every single part of me because I did not have any other option”.

Motivation to succeed can be difficult but she was determined. “I wanted to be part of the 20% of students who graduate in record time.” – Tembisa Mguzulo

 

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