Very few could be able to summon courage and move on after encountering serious mishaps such as death and falling pregnant while studying. Dr Senamile Masango falls in this rare category of people after she showed incredible fortitude and drive to overcome these predicaments and went on to become an inspiration to young girls. She is one of the few and first women nuclear physicist in the country.
Born 36 years ago in Kwa-Nongoma in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Masango started her university education at an impressionable age of 16 years and she blames this for her unexpected pregnancy in the midst of her studies. She says her late father, who was a well-known school chief inspector, was very strict and the university was her only chance to enjoy her freedom. But by her own admission, she abused the freedom and she neglected her studies. After she gave birth to her lovely baby girl, she took a year’s break and her mother looked after the baby when she went back to university. Unfortunately, her daughter died tragically after she was knocked by car.
Getting accolade from the higher office
In 2017, the then president Jacob Zuma heaped praises on Dr Masango for her enviable accomplishment. “We congratulate this inspirational young African woman on her excellent achievement and hope that she will serve as beacon for all other young African women to follow in her footsteps and achieve their goals and dreams,” said the former president. Dr Masango is also an international energy consultant as well as the first African woman to form part of an African-led team conducting experiments at CERN, the European-based organisation for nuclear research. She also founded Mphathisithele Consulting, an international entity that specialises in energy consulting and project development.
Increasing women scientists
In 2014 Dr Masango launched the Senamile Masango Foundation to specifically empower women in South Africa and Africa. The foundation offers programmes for school learners and professionals to increase the scientific productivity and efficiency of women scientists in the Third World. In addition, the foundation also seeks to strengthen the research efforts as well increasing training opportunities for young women scientists and engineers. Dr Masango also the formed and chairs an NGO called Women in Science and Engineering also known as Wise Africa. The organisation aims to teach youth leadership skills before they can enter the science and technology sector.
Improving learner performance in STEMi
So passionate is Dr Masango to promote leadership and support for young people to enter the STEMi fields that she once turned her house into a makeshift study centre for Grade 10, 11 and 12 learners in her community. Furthermore, she donated some study materials and books to needy learners including helping them with university applications. Dr Masango says she wants to contribute to making South African education system better by helping improve learner performance in STEMi and trying to make these fields accessible to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, “I also want to make education fashionable in my lifetime.”
Admirable academic accomplishment
Dr Masango possess a number of admirable academic achievements which is why she is highly regarded in her field. They include the following:
- Doctorate in Nuclear Physics
- Master of Science (MSc) in Nuclear Physics (cum-laude) from the University of the Western Cape Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours in Nuclear Physics
- Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Physics and Electronics from the University of Zululand
- Diploma in Project Management from Varsity College, and
- PDM in Energy Leadership from Wits Business School.
More feathers on her cap
Last year Dr Masango was awarded the International Women in Science award; recognised as one of the 50 Global Inspirational Women of 2020 and Women in Tech Global Awards finalist in 2021.
She is also a South Africa’s research leader at BRICS Youth Energy Outlook and her foundation won the BRICS Youth Energy Outlook 2020. Dr Masango also serves[d] as a non-executive director at the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation Ltd (NECSA); chairperson of the research, development, and technology subcommittee; non-executive director at Moses Kotane, and council member at the University of the Western Cape.