UJ vice chancellor launches scholarship for women in honour of grandmother


The aim of the scholarship is reportedly to grow the number of women in the engineering field.

The University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor and principal Professor Tshilidzi Marwala will on Tuesday launch the Tshianeo Marwala scholarship for women in honour of his grandmother.

The scholarship is targeted towards women from underprivileged backgrounds who are pursuing studies with a focus on fourth industrial revolution-related (4IR) studies at postgraduate level.

Prof Marwala, himself a professional engineer and one of the country’s leading experts in 4IR, said his late grandmother Tshianeo Marwala was his first engineering teacher and his inspiration.

“Vho-Tshianeo Marwala did not go to university in the US to study mechanical engineering as I did,” he said.

“She did not go to the University of Cambridge in England to study for a doctorate in artificial intelligence (AI) as I did. She never even left South Africa. Despite these limitations, she taught me engineering at an early age. She taught me how to predict the failure of buildings in advance.”

Born in 1925 at Makhonde village in Venda, Limpopo, Tshianeo Marwala was popular as a skilled artisan and a traditional engineer who made floor mats using reeds and clay pots – an art rich in lessons for engineering, such as supply-chain management, metallurgy, applied mathematics, thermodynamics, and AI.

“Even though she didn’t go to school, my grandmother’s understanding of scientific principles such as vibration to assess clay pots was outstanding. She was able to apply the annealing process without knowing the Boltzmann equation invented by the Austrian scientist, Ludwig Boltzmann,” Prof Marwala said.

He said the aim of the scholarship was to grow the number of women in the engineering field.

“South African women have made many advances in industry in recent years, but much more work needs to be done to attract and retain women, particularly in areas such as engineering,” he said.

“The search for qualified and talented engineers remains one of the greatest challenges faced by companies across the globe. Even greater difficulty is experienced in attracting and retaining women engineers who comprise of a small percent of the available workforce in the sector. It’s important that women are visible in all areas of study, especially as we embrace 4IR.”

African News Agency

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