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Women's Month: Dr Mmaki Jantjies

As we celebrate Women's month - join JacaNews in saluting the movers, shakers, trendsetters and game changers in our society.

Mmaki Jantjies became one of the first black South African female PHD computer science graduates in the country at the age of 28. Dr Jantjies heads the University of Western Cape's academic department of Information Systems where she continues to produce national and international research publications focusing on how technology can be used to develop education and small business sector in developing countries. 

She is a finalist in the Women in ICT - Partnership for Change Awards - an MTN and Kagiso Media initiative. 

Five questions to Dr Mmaki Jantjies:

Dr Mmaki Jantjies_supplied
Photo supplied

1.  What drives you to do what you do?

When I started lecturing I got so much fulfilment from seeing young children wanting to follow a career in tech and academia, just because they had seen me do it. I stand by the words that "I must be the change that I want to see." So in my daily life, in my work and in my community - each time I am faced with questions I cannot answer, I always ask myself, what am I doing to make the situation better. I am thus driven by the passion of seeing young men and women who are products of my lectures and research training going on to be successful: entrepreneurs and leaders in the field. I am also driven by the joy of producing technology research from an African view. I feel that we need to tell our own stories through publications. I also do a lot of community work, supporting teachers to learn how to use technology in classes and teaching young girls in rural and township schools ICT skills. What drives me in this, is the impact that my support makes when they realize the power they have once they gain these skills. 

2.  How important is technology and its evolution to the school system in your opinion? 

I think technology in schools has moved from being a privilege to a necessity considering the fast paced growth of ICT across every sector.  Having basic office skills is no longer a luxury but a necessity. However I am always cognisant of the historical challenges that still plague our education system and thus believe that improving mathematics in high school is the first point of call with technology. I also believe that educating teachers using innovative technology approaches can inspire them to do the same in their classrooms. 

ALSO READ: Women's Month: Hlengiwe Hlophe-Maxon

3.  What are the challenges in this regard? 

Schools are still challenged by high learner ratios, and a limit of teachers skilled in technology and mathematics. Teachers are also often burdened with many challenges such as violence in some areas where schools are located and social issues affecting their learners. Constant support to our schools as a community can help improve our educational challenges.  Having teacher support and school kids' technology support initiatives motivates teachers and sparks interests among children to experiment with technology at times using the basic mobile phones that they have access to as their first point of technology access.  

4.  How important a role does mentoring play? 

Mentoring is a fundamental aspect of growth and experience. My mentors are my mother to many other women in my family and beyond. They have played a vital role in helping me realize that I am the architect of my persona, spirituality and career. The more role models we celebrate, the more we reach out to the up and coming generations to allow themselves to be able to dream. Dreaming is the first point of success! 

5.  What advice would you give young women wanting to follow in your footsteps? 

Being able to impact society through education and research on technology is the most fulfilling experience, as you always see the impact of the change you bring in your greater society. My advice to young women is to find their passion and to never allow anyone or the environment to dictate the epitome of their career and success. Like any area, passion plays an important role.

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