Addressing topical science matters such as COVID-19 and creating a pool of young, black and particularly female scientists are some of the key priorities for NRF-SAASTA’s new managing director, Dr Mamoeletsi Mosia.
Dr Mosia says NRF-SAASTA is tasked to drive the advancement of public awareness, appreciation and engagement of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI) in South Africa. This would involve forging partnerships with key players in the science community, science centres and universities, as well as research facilities both within and outside the NRF. She says that although NRF-SAASTA’s initiatives are aimed to develop a pipeline of future scientists and innovators, it would also collaborate with STEM professionals to assist them with creatively communicating science in a easily relatable way and make it also more accessible to ordinary members of the public.
Well-qualified for the job
Dr Mosia is not only passionate about science, but is also academically well qualified to fulfil NRF-SAASTA’s mandate of increasing public awareness and participation of women and girls in science. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and a MCom in Leadership Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She also served in various leadership capacities at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for well over a decade.
Ahead of the curve
Dr Mosia’s exemplary career in science and mathematics disproves the myth and perception that these two subjects are too difficult for women. Throughout school, she had always been outperforming her peers, despite the fact that her Grade eight and nine classes did not have a dedicated mathematics teacher, let alone sufficient resources. She was fortunate to be part of an enrichment maths and science programme over weekends, coincidentally facilitated by NRF-SAASTA. She says her involvement in the project inspired and deepened her love for maths and science and she wishes to use the NRF-SAASTA programme as a platform to motivate children who grow up in townships with chronic shortage of resources and facilities.
Encouraging girls to pursue the sciences
Dr Mosia says undertaking regular visits to areas from where very little information on career paths is available to learner, is also on her priority list. She says that, as part of their outreach programmes, they would ensure qualified and practising scientists, engineers and technologists are invited to accompany them to inspire black children, especially girls, to pursue similar fields. The idea is to show them that it is possible for a black female from a township to become the face of science.
Teacher training programmes
NRF-SAASTA also facilitates teacher training programmes to equip upskill them on how to imaginatively teach maths and science. Other activities include after-school science clubs to generate learner interest in STEM subjects. She says it would help increase pass rates and grow numbers of learners taking these subjects. When parents and learners see others doing well in the subjects, they too have the confidence that they can do it, Dr Mosia believes.
She says that in order to increase their reach and footprint, NRF-SAASTA is looking at strengthening collaboration networks with organisations sharing similar values and goals. In addition, it would enhance co-ordination of science engagement activities nationally so that NRF-SAASTA can realise its return on investment. She says the day she hears at least one young girl say “If it wasn’t for NRF-SAASTA, I would not be where I am today,” then she will know she had delivered on her goal.