STEM MentHER induction at Stellenbosch University 2023

From left: coordinators of the STEM MentHER programme in the Western Cape Dr Ronalda Benjamin (Stellenbosch University) and Miss Fameno Rakotoniaina (PhD student in Pure Mathematics at Stellenbosch University) with STEM MentHER’s founder Dr Cerene Rathilal (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and director Dr Lungile Sitole (UJ Soweto Science Centre).


The first cohort of STEM MentHER learners from the Western Cape recently met their mentors at Stellenbosch University.

This initiative aims to guide Grade 12 female learners into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Learners are nominated by principals and educators. Successful candidates are then paired with mentors, who are female academics and postgraduate students.

The programme was started in Gauteng by Dr Lungile Sithole (University of Johannesburg Soweto Science Centre) and Dr Cerene Rathilal from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It has now also been rolled out in the Western Cape under the leadership of Dr Ronalda Benjamin, a lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU). It is supported by, amongst others, NITheCS. The nine learners who formed part of this year’s programme at SU were selected from more than 100 applicants from Cape schools. Dr Benjamin comments: ‘I wish I had access to someone at a university for advice while I was at school!’

Speaking to the STEM MentHER group at the launch event, the interim director of NITheCS, Prof Francesco Petruccione, stressed how artificial intelligence is ‘pervasive and will shape everything. You should be part of the generation who shapes the evolution of this tool. These are exciting times for those who know how to use the tool (and not for those who are scared of it)’.

Prof Ingrid Rewitzky, head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at SU, stressed that students should not focus on singular moments of success or failure, but rather visualise their careers as a continuously evolving journey. ‘It is a process. Throughout our lives we learn. Do what is in your hearts and embrace this opportunity.’

The Western Cape mentors are:

  • Dr Kathleen Green, Agile Methodologies consultant
  • Dr Shareefa Dalvi from the University of Cape Town
  • Dr Cara Haller from the Faculty of Engineering at SU
  • Dr Taskeen Ebrahim, Faculty of Engineering at SU
  • Anneri Aspeling, MSc student in Engineering, SU
  • Dr Retha Heymann from the Faculty of Science at SU
  • Prof Karin Howell from the Faculty of Science at SU
  • Ms Jacobie Mouton, computer scientist
  • Dr Ronalda Benjamin from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University

A few weeks earlier, STEM MentHER learners from Gauteng met their mentors. Since this event, STEM MentHER learners from KwaZulu-Natal have been introduced to their mentors too.