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4 August 2017
Women In Maths Mini-Convention 2017

UWC celebrates Women’s Month by urging learners to stick with maths

“Don’t try to be anyone but you.”

That was the message University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Professor Priscilla Baker left with 125 girls gathered at the 2017 UWC Women in Mathematics Mini-Convention at the Capetonian hotel.

The mini convention, organised by UWC’s Science Learning Centre for Africa (UWC-SLCA) took place on Thursday, 3 August 2017, where girls from 25 different schools in the Western Cape and their Mathematics teachers were in attendance.

Professor Baker, a Lecturer and Co- Head of the UWC SensorLab - and a South African Women in Science Award winner - was among five role models, all from disadvantaged backgrounds and selected from various disciplines – including genetics, biotechnology, chemistry, chartered accounting and mathematics - to highlight how mathematics impacted upon their schooling, tertiary studies as well as their current career path.

This year’s role models included Dr Ronalda Benjamin, a Lecturer in Mathematics from Stellenbosch, Mrs Nicollete Jacobs, Director/ Partner at PWC, and Dr Evodia Mathabatha Setati, who is a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University.

Professor Priscilla Baker, and Dr Maryam Fish, a Consultant at Allan Gray, spoke to the girls about the benefits of holding on to Mathematics at high school - no matter how difficult it may be.

“It is so sad to see how many of our learners are dropping pure mathematics for maths literacy in our schools,” said Mrs Nicollete Jacobs. “I want you to know that it has not been easy for any of us standing here today, but we stuck it out.”

“If there is one thing they never tell you in school, it is the fact that you will need mathematics wherever you go in life,” said Dr Evodia Setati to the learners, “so you might as well take it and make your own life easier, because it will make you favourable in any course you apply for at university.”

Dr Ronalda Benjamin added that most teachers are not passionate about teaching, and this may be one of the reasons our country is currently experiencing a crisis where Maths and Science are concerned.

She went on to say: “It becomes difficult because a lot of educators aren’t particularly passionate about teaching - to some, teaching was not even a first choice, but they have to do it because it’s a job. This then becomes a problem for the learner.”

Learners who attended were those who had managed to maintain a reasonable level of achievement in mathematics as a subject.

The Women in Mathematics Mini-Convention is one of many ways in which the University of the Western Cape celebrates Women’s Month- with female-focused events happening throughout the month of August.