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24 January 2018
UWC alumna uses science to change communities
For UWC lecturer and alumna Dr Fanelwa Ngece-Ajayi, research leader in the field of drug metabolism nanobiosensors for antiretrovirals and tuberculosis treatment drugs, furthering your education is not enough. You also need to help further the education of others.

Dr Ngece-Ajayi, a senior lecturer in Physical Chemistry at UWC, is the founder and leader of the non-profit organisation, AmaQawe ngeMfundo, which aims to change the negative stereotypes about townships by visiting schools with makeshift equipment and exciting experiments to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We visit schools with our makeshift mobile laboratory and give learners access to interactive demonstrations and experiments to help make learning more practical,” she explains. “Then there are times we take them on outings – to the Cape Town Science Centre, for instance. One of the learners inspired by that trip would like to become a forensic biologist.”

Dr Ngece-Ajayi and five of her childhood friends who are involved in AmaQawe ngeMfundo know that applying to a university to further your education is not a given for people living in township communities like Khayelitsha in Cape Town, where she grew up.

“I’m happy to be leading this group,” Dr Ngece-Ajayi explains enthusiastically. “Lecturing at UWC showed me that students from the townships and rural-based schools struggle financially and sometimes quit their studies due to a lack of proper foundation in science and a lack of exposure in the field. I’d like to change that.”

Together they want to first instil confidence among learners to study maths and science, as well as the skills and love for the subjects that can change their worlds.

“We all have a heart for the communities we come from and we want to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] among pupils in townships and rural schools, and to encourage these pupils to pursue careers in these areas.”

They’ve empowered more than 60 learners from different schools in Khayelitsha through the motivational seminars, workshops and talks they offer. These events are also tailored to provide these learners with information pertaining to bursary and scholarship applications, apart from assisting them with placement at institutions of higher learning.

“So far we’re proud of what we’ve achieved,” Dr Ngece-Ajayi says, “but there’s more to come. In future, I’m excited about seeing these youngsters get interested in solving the current water crisis, as well as finding solutions to the health issues in South Africa.

AmaQawe ngeMfundo also hopes to open laboratories in marginalised communities, so that learners can experience the joys of experimenting, tinkering and discovery first-hand. Dr Ngece-Ajayi is appealing to both the private and public sectors to support this cause through any form of donations and sponsorships. She is also asking universities and science research institutions to help learners gain exposure and practical experience of science by hosting them during weekends and school holidays.