Mishumo Nemathaga holds a BSc in Life Science (Microbiology and Zoology stream), a BSc Honours in Life Science (Microbiology Stream) and is currently a Master’s of Science in Agriculture candidate at the University of South Africa focusing on Animal Science.
But she had to work really hard to reach this point in her academic career. Born in Venda and later moving to Pretoria, Miss Nemathaga wrestled with a number of socio-economic challenges like most children in rural areas. Her parents were her pillar of strength and did all they could to ensure she receives better education. She attended La Montagne Primary School (2001-2007) and she later went to do her high school at Princess Park College (2008-2009). In 2010-12 she moved to Lehlabile Senior Secondary School where she completed her Grade 12.
Miss Nemathaga always had a curious mind and she was fortunate to attend a primary school that had resources to further deepen her love for science. While in Grade 6 she enthusiastically took part in mini-projects, life sciences and other technology classrooms activities. She later bought a laptop which enabled her to Google search interesting animals and plants. “My current academic career was inspired by a young 12 year old self because of the intermediate phase foundation education that I received through my Grade 6 life science and technology teachers,” says Miss Nemathaga.
At the moment she is conducting research on Ascaridia galli parasitic roundworms that infect chickens of village farmers. She says this research is crucial as it will help alleviate poverty and therefore meet the nutritional needs of low-income households. In addition, this will also provide healthy food that is free from nematodes to community that rely on chicken for their livelihood, says Miss Nemathaga.
She says what excites her about her research is that it contributes positively to the global goal of combating hunger in Africa. “I have a passion to make a difference in Africa through research, and I believe that success doesn’t compare to making a generational difference. I believe my research work will contribute to changing the narrative surrounding African contributions to global STEM research and careers. We are a continent full of academic excellence and we can lead STEM research in Africa and bring the globe to us,” says Nemathaga.
She is concerned that the STEM fields are still dominated by men. As a result of this “I have found myself in situations that would force me to question my academic choices and one of these challenges is job opportunities”. She says she is “part of a generation of women scientists that find it hard to be recognised as capable and competent”, adding that she lost many opportunities because she is “seen as not physically strong enough for the job without even being evaluated”.
But Miss Nemathaga says she has come to learn that “with every rejection it is important to redefine yourself, redefine your surroundings and learn that you are a capable and competent woman”. Ironically, this has emboldened her to work hard which is why she is currently studying towards her a PhD, the first in her family to do so.
Despite the systemic obstacles, Miss Nemathaga boasts a number of career highlights which include, among others:
- completing her BSc in Life Science (Microbiology and Zoology)
- being a Black Woman In Science fellow, which opened opportunities for her and also encouraged her as a scientist
- Being featured in Women in Science Africa which made her recognise how women of colour face challenges associated with lack of representation and recognition
- Being part of a platform called Visibility STEM, which gave her an opportunity to inspire the next generation by making young girls aware that their dreams are valid and achievable and
- She has also started a Facebook Page called Free Science with the aim of not only communicating science to senior phase (Grade 10-12) learners and University students but to also to develop a platform that recognises the STEM fields and encourages STEM subjects in high schools.
Her message to future generation of women scientists is that they should “fail but never fail to try again” and they should also:
- Take the journey with an open mind and willingness to learn from your mistakes. It is also important to know that challenges are there to make you stronger.
- Believe in yourself and your abilities. Set goals, aspirations, interests and values and follow them.
- Also remember that we make academic choices on a daily basis, so don’t be afraid to aim for greater heights
- We all know that perseverance is the mother of success. Furthermore the reason why perseverance is a virtue is because it is strength within courage followed by bravery, honesty, and zest. Believe in yourself and your abilities and remember that you are intelligent and a force to be reckoned with; work hard and never be afraid to ask questions and most importantly always remember that in the STEM world we learn from those who pursued it before us; they are the greatest mentors, so persevere.