The Astro Molo Mhlaba programme uses astronomy as a tool to inspire South African girls from underserved communities to be passionate about science, and equip them to pursue a career in STEM. We currently work with four primary schools, and around 80 grade 11 students from Manyano and Sophumelela High-School.
Astronomy easily captures the imagination of students (and adults!) of all ages, making it the ideal subject through which to encourage them to pursue STEM careers. Thanks to many South African projects (eg the Square Kilometer Array) astronomy is also a high-profile STEM sector in the country, and one that offers a large number of funding opportunities for higher degrees in Physics.
Through its astronomy programme, we aim to inspire the female scientists of the future, while enabling learners, parents, and educators to understand how a career in science provides skills – both direct and transferable – which are highly sought-after in research and industry. Direct exposure to professional female astronomers, furthermore, will also allow learners and to challenge gender stereotypes.
Our programmes include:
An after-school programme providing astronomy-based activities to local primary school children on a weekly basis. Currently, four primary schools have confirmed the participation of their female students in the programme: Molo Mhlaba, Chumisa, Luleka, and Isiphiwo/Vuzamanzi. Through these activities, we aim to:
- Transmit to children fundamental astronomy concepts;
- Promote a positive association of astronomy with enjoyable and stimulating activities;
- Develop the girls’ confidence and comfort in approaching scientific subjects, and empower them to pursue their scientific curiosity with assurance;
A series of once-a-week astronomy lessons aimed at both grade 11/12 (G11/12) female students from local high schools and recently-matriculated young women from the community. The latter will also be trained to run the above-mentioned Astro Club as Astro Club Facilitators (ACFs). All participants are taught and mentored by professional female astronomers, and provided with advice and support on how to pursue a STEM degree. Furthermore:
- G11/12 students are provided with once-a-week maths & science tutoring by a professional tutor, in order to ensure they meet the academic requirements needed to apply to university and for financial aid opportunities to fund their degrees;
- ACFs, along with their teacher training, will receive a bursary for their work in the Astro Club, to ensure they can have a continuous source of income while learning about astronomy and considering a pursuit of a STEM degree.