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24 August 2016
UWC-SLCA hosted its 10th annual Women in Mathematics conference

UWC-SLCA hosted its 10th annual Women in Mathematics conference

The University of the Western Cape’s Science Learning Centre for Africa (SLCA)  hosted its 10th annual Women in Mathematics’ Conference at the Capetonian hotel on Wednesday 24 August 2016.

In celebration of women and highlighting the importance of Mathematics, Professor Shaheed Hartley and his team invited mathematical mentors - learners, teachers and other professionals who had  mathematics as a subject in school and are now pursuing careers related to  mathematics.

This year’s mentors included Professor Lorna Holtman, Director of UWC’s Division for PostGrad Studies; Dr Erna Blancquaert, a lecturer at Stellenbosch University who was the first black South African to receive a doctorate in Viticulture; Dr Natasha Ross, a lecturer at the UWC’s Department of Chemistry; Dr Hamieda Parker, who is an Associate Professor at the UCT Graduate School of Business; and Dr Rejoyce Gavhi, the founder of New Horizons for Mathematics in Africa and a post-doctoral researcher at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS-South Africa).

The mentors told the invited female learners about their journeys and how they made it against all odds - and how mathematics had helped them achieve their dreams.

“My teacher once told me I would never be accepted at Stellenbosch University, but I received a bursary,” said Dr Blancquaert. “Do not let your circumstances determine where you are going.”

Dr Ross agreed with the sentiment. “It is you who determines where you are going in life. I used the money I made during the holidays to pay for winter school which in turn helped me strengthen my maths and science learning.”

Dr Gavhi told the learners how at some point in her life she was just a village girl with a dream to get an education and build a school in her village in Limpopo. “You need to play your part - and your role models don’t have to be us. You also need to bear in mind that failure is the mother of success.”

The intent of the Women in Mathematics mini-convention was to bring together successful female role models to deliver an inspiring message about the importance of maths to young ladies from disadvantaged schools.

One of the students attending the annual conference was Qaqamba Falithenjwa, a grade 11 pupil at Zisukhanyo High School in Samora Machel. She said: “Today we learned that mathematics is a major subject and that no matter where we go it will always follow us.”

Grade 10 Lentegeur High School learner Lara Hendricks said she was inspired because the way the mentors spoke made her realise that she could also make it, “I am inspired to do better because the speakers, no matter their circumstances at the time, persisted and achieved their goals.”