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MTN ICT Women’s Awards is indicative to young-girls that everything is possible, says Dr Mmaki Jantjies!

The initiative serves as a recognition platform that acknowledges and celebrates the contribution made by female professionals to the growth of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in South Africa.

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Innovation is in her DNA. Dr Mmaki Jantjies has been nominated in three categories in the inaugural MTN ICT Awards, scheduled for August 31 (Womens’ Month) at Hyde Park.

The winners will be announced on August 31 at a gala function, Hyde Park- Johannesburg.

We had a Q & A with one of the nominees Dr Mmaki Jantijies (nominated in three categories).

Sowetolife Mag Online:  Who is Dr Mmaki Jantjies?

Dr MJ: An academic, an educator, a community developer but most important a mother, a sister, a mentor.

I develop and research on software and technology that can be used to support teaching and learning with focus on mobile learning software for science and technology use in high schools working with teachers to help design and use this technology in schools.

I also lecture on technology courses and also Head the Information Systems department at the University of the Western Cape.

I am a regional co-ordinator of women and girls ICT clubs. I thus started technology clubs similar to extra-murals such as chess clubs working with high schools in townships and rural areas and university graduate females.

I then mentor the graduate females and work with them to teach women and girls between 13-16 basic programming and technology skills in these clubs with the hope of motivating the school girls to get into the technology career space and walk away from the clubs with basic ICT skills.

My dream is to expand clubs to every part of the country to ensure that children in rural and township schools have a shot at being future black geeks and researchers and grow our own Silicon Valley which addresses local and global challenges from where we stand.

I also educate and support high school teachers who want to try out technology in their schools and who have fear of using it, as the more they use technology the more exposure our children have to it.

SLM: Originally where you from?

Dr MJ: I am originally from Mahikeng in the North West Province.

SLM: Where did you study computer sciences?

Dr MJ: I completed a PHD in Computer Science at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.

SLM: What led to you becoming a computer sciences graduate and at what age?

Dr MJ: While tech was not a space which I saw myself in while in high school following a decimal performance in the subject, I knew that a technology qualification could give me access to many opportunities, and thus went on to do well in the subject area post high school.

After working in the industry, I also realized the need for young black women in the industry and decided to further my studies because I knew the power that studying further holds in changing society and also motivated by parents who believed that education is everything!

As my passion is in education with focus on STEM subjects, I went on to research in my PhD study on how I can use my software development skills to develop and research on technology that can be designed, developed and used to assist our education sector with focus on STEM subjects.

At the age of 28, I passed my PhD defense and was elated to use my degree to advance my country’s research area and teach these skills to my community.

SLM: What do you make of the inaugural MTN Women ICT awards?

Dr MJ: I think these awards and those to come, are pioneering in showing especially young girls that someone, from backgrounds which are similar to theirs; can go on to contribute to building a better society and that no amount of challenges and adversity should take you away from what you’re talented in and what you are passionate about.

SLM: You’ve been nominated in three categories. What’s your feeling?

Dr MJ: I was deeply humbled and moved to tears that someone could think my everyday life duties were worth celebrating.

I asked my husband to read and just help me check if this was indeed true, and I called MTN to make sure that what I was seeing was right. I was truly humbled by those who nominated me and shortlisted me to be in this list, it is a real honour.

SLM: You developed an M-Thuto, a mobile learning app. Please expatiate?

Dr MJ: M-Thuto is a mobile application that was developed with teachers to address the lack of locally designed and developed mobile applications which can be used in science and mathematics classrooms considering the role that mobile phone access can play in education.

M-Thuto (Mobile Thuto) is loosely translated to Mobile Education. It consisted of science and mathematics content and material that teachers felt they would need when conducting lessons and for learning at home with components such as notes, text book and assessments and solutions and many other features.

It also provided learners with a multilingual view of the learning content allowing them to learn in a language of their choice. We then went on to use this technology in classrooms and further published academic papers on this area too.

SLM: Currently where and what are you lecturing?

Dr MJ: I am supervising research students, conduct research, lecture and also Head the Information Systems department at the Western Cape University.

SLM: Advise to young women keen in computer sciences, in preparation for job market instead of obvious subjects/career?

Dr MJ: Computer science allows women to be employees, entrepreneurs, academics, educators, community developers and is one of those few subject areas, which has all this flexibility.

It cuts across disciplines and allows you to apply your skills in any sector in any country. Every sector needs female tech geeks!

Programming skills gives you a platform to develop software that changes so many lives for the good. Once you have these skills the choice becomes yours on how you can use them to advance yourself and your society.

Here is the nominees list:

Leadership Recognition Award

  • Aisha Mohamed
  • Mmaki Jantjies
  • Christelle Van der Merwe

Innovator Recognition Award

  • Stephanie Cowper
  • Amelia Thiart
  • Paula Sartini

Community Builder

  • Dianne Broodryk
  • Baratang Miya
  • Mmaki Jantjies 

Outstanding Women Award

  • Zimkhita Buwa
  • Vuyokazi Menye
  • Mmaki Jantjies

The Entrepreneur Award

  • Irene Charnley
  • Nomsa Nteleko
  • Aisha Pandor

Excellence in Journalism

  • Thabiso Mochiko
  • Paula Gilbert
  • Simnikiwe Mzekandaba

Graduate Award

  • Ghislaine Livie Ngangom Tiemeni
  • Sharon Rao-Farista
  • Eva Ramaila

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