Umkomaas Secondary School Visits UKZN as Part of LINKS International STEM Project

As part of National Science Week, STEC@UKZN – the University’s Science and Technology Education Centre – hosted the Umkomaas South Africa/Windy City (IL) LINKS-NSBE Jr. Chapters STEM Career Fair.

Forty Umkomaas Secondary School learners spent a stimulating and event-filled day at UKZN’s Science Centre as part of a project initiated by Windy City Chapter (IL), The Links Incorporated, an international women’s volunteer service organisation with more than 16 000 members who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the cultural and economic survival of African-Americans and other persons of African ancestry.

‘We are committed to coaching and assisting Umkomaas learners to prepare, gain admission and succeed in STEM courses of study at South African tertiary institutions,’ explained Windy City Chapter’s Chair of International Trends and Services, Dr Adrienne Bailey, who Zoomed in from the USA to participate in the STEM-orientated day along with University of Missouri Biomedical Engineering student Ms Hirut Suraphel.

UKZN’s Dr Tanja Reinhardt – aka “Dr T” – kicked off the activities with a “Build Your Own Crazy Machine” workshop, which got the learners engaged with the intricacies of mechanical design. They then had the chance to meet and interact with current UKZN STEM students. Mr Thembelani Khumalo shared his journey of becoming an agricultural engineer, whilst Mr Samkelo Njiva spoke on the road he travelled to become a geological scientist. Learners also had a chance to explore UKZN’s geological museum as well as interact with other educative displays at the Science Centre.

Inspirational stories were provided by Ms Tholakele Ngubane, Links Scholar and Candidate Structural Engineer at the National Department of Public Works and Infrastructure; Mr Kwazi Mabaso, Chairperson, National Society of Black Engineers SA, who spoke on the place and role of engineers in South Africa; Mr Delon Naicker, PhD candidate at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI); Ms Uvedhna Padia, Masters in Medical Science Virology candidate; and UKZN students Ms Tanita Permaul, Physics and Mr Warren Naidoo, Mathematics and Astronomy.

Umkomaas Secondary School graduate and UKZN first-year Marine Biology student, Mr Mongameli Shinga coached the learners on how to prepare for university as well as various STEM career and study options available.

As South Africa advisor to Umkomaas NSBE Jr. Chapters, Ms Noluthando Mapumulo contributed to planning and organising logistics for the career day.

‘Both the United States and South Africa are in strong need of STEM workers,’ said Bailey. ‘Worldwide, most careers in the future will be STEM based. We are living in a scientific and technological revolution which is characterised by exponential growth and accelerating change particularly in the fields of Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation.

‘As articulated by the South Africa Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), “South Africa needs to be self-sufficient and economically competitive and to achieve that the country needs young people who have a passion for the critical subjects of Science, Mathematics and Technology and who excel in these subjects. What needs to be done is to prepare our youth to be effective citizens in the scientific, mathematical and technological world of which we dream”.’

In addition to the Links, sponsors of the Umkomaas, NSBE Jr. Chapters include eThekwini Municipality, General Motors and Northrop Grumman.

Words: Sally Frost

Photographs: Supplied