At 26 years old Verushka Sewsunker has achieved what many her age can only dream of. Not only did she obtain her Bachelor of Technology in Civil Engineering (Urban) in record time but she did so with distinction.
“I feel a great sense of pride having obtained my studies cum laude, seeing that this is a prestige accolade,” she said. What makes her achievement even more special is the fact that she is the first one in her family to reach such a level of qualification particularly in civil engineering. “This is a great achievement, I am really proud of my accomplishment,” said Sewsunker.
Furthermore, she managed to break through into a terrain that has traditionally been dominated by men. This accomplishment places her firmly in the category of the new crop of dynamic and young female brigade determined to change the narrative and the face of the engineering industry as a male preserve.
In 2018, according to the South African Institute of Civil Engineering, a paltry 5% of its 6,000 professional members were women.
In the same year body’s chief executive, Manglin Pillay, throw the cat among the pigeons when he made what was widely interpreted to be demeaning and misogynistic remarks. He said Pillay: “Given that money, time and resources are constrained, and evidence pointing to women being predisposed to caring and people careers, should we be investing so heavily in attracting women into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, specifically engineering, or should we invest it in creating more gender equal societies?”
Sewsunker attributes her recent academic success to her love for science and mathematics during her early school days. The two subjects are prerequisite for one to pursue a career in civil engineering.
Said Sewsunker: “Studying civil engineering was my first choice. I always enjoyed science and mathematics. I was intrigued by the development of infrastructure; it gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that I will be part of helping society to become more advanced by adapting the infrastructure to meet challenges brought on in our daily lives and to making a positive difference to the world as an engineer.”
She said her parents were excited and proud when they heard the news that she has passed with flying colours. “This is a male dominated industry, but many women have broken the barriers and now have become a formidable force in the industry. I too want to break down any form of barriers by gaining sufficient experience and eventually be officially registered,” said Swesunker.
She highlighted some of the obstacles she encountered on her journey to becoming a qualified engineer. Swesunker said she had to juggle her work and studies when she started her new job while studying. “This added a further strain as I needed more time to prove my capabilities to established engineers in my company. Working an eight-hour day job and still having to attend night lectures was tough. I had to cut-off my social life as I had to complete many assignments, projects and focus on exams,” she explained.
Sewsunker will be part of the virtual graduation ceremony on Thursday, this week. She expressed disappointment that she will not be attending the occasion in person due to the Covid-19 pandemic regulations as people are not allowed to congregate in one place.
“I would have loved to celebrate with my peers and family. However, I am grateful that I am still given this opportunity to celebrate my special moment amidst this pandemic,” she said. Swesunker plans to further her studies and open her own engineering consulting firm.
Her advice to students, who want to pursue study civil engineering is that they should work hard work, be dedicated and diligent, adding this is the perfect recipe for success.