Redesigning STEM education for diversity and inclusivity

Rebecca Ilunga and Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng | 17 July 2019 | 22:57


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Show notes

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng grew up in Apartheid South Africa, where racial segregation was passed into law in favour of the white minority population. This racial discrimination determined everything from where you lived, to what level of education you received and what career you could embark on. Despite these racial barriers, she rose to become the first woman of colour in South Africa to receive her PhD in mathematics. Now, Professor Phakeng is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

Across the globe, private and public education policies are changing to increase the diversity of students in higher education. Unfortunately, in some institutions, increasing student diversity is hampered especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – also known as STEM.

If our goal is to achieve inclusive excellence, where do we start? Professor Phakeng is asking the same questions on her campus.

In this episode of Engineering Reimagined, Aurecon Civil Engineer Rebecca Ilunga chats with Professor Phakeng about what the future curriculum might look like as well as the challenges and opportunities for women in STEM fields. We also discuss how creativity and innovation can be catalysts in our career aspirations.

Meet our guest and host

Learn more about Rebecca Ilunga and Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng.

Rebecca Ilunga, Civil Engineer at Aurecon

Rebecca Ilunga

Civil Engineer, Aurecon

“I think my dad used to say something similar to that: 'Whatever space you're in, you need to leave an impact, so be the best version of that.'”

Rebecca is a civil engineer at Aurecon. She is passionate about water and the role it plays in our society. A driven and enthusiastic professional, she aims to be part of the environmental, social and economic transformation of how water is viewed and how it can be harnessed to create an opportunity for resilient design. Rebecca earned her Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Civil Engineering with Honours at the University of Cape Town in South Africa in 2014 and a Distinction for her Masters of Science (MSc) in Water and Environmental Management at the Loughborough University in the United Kingdom in 2019.

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Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng from UCT

Mamokgethi Phakeng

Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Town

“I say to people that excellence is not the issue, the issue is pursuing excellence without transformation then your excellence will not be sustainable.”

Professor Phakeng is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and the first woman of colour in South Africa to receive her PhD in mathematics. Aside from being a highly regarded B2 NRF-rated scientist, she also travels the globe as a sought-after and a visiting professor to countries like Australia, Sweden and South Korea. She is also the founder of the Adopt-a-learner Foundation, a non-profit organisation that started in 2004 that provides financial and educational support to students from township and rural areas to acquire higher education qualifications.

Follow Prof. Phakeng on social media:

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