By: Lwazi Nongauza
Have you ever been asked the question “what do people say when they gossip about you?” Penester Tjale knows exactly what her peers say when they talk about her.
“I accept that Life is not easy for any of us, but hanging around Penester Tjale taught me that my circumstances are just that. Circumstances, not my life reality or destiny.”
“Over and above everything, Penny taught me that she and many other successful women are just examples not exceptions.Therefore with perseverance and confidence I too can attain that type of success.’’
Despite what seemed to be a bleak future for Masipa (Engineering student at the University of Johannesburg),Molekoa (Physics student at the University of Stellenbosch) and many young women from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, are now pursuing their studies in the field of science- thanks to Tjale’s Girls In Science, Eskom, International Science Expo and various strategic partners.
Listen to Tjale talk About Girls In Science HERE.
The 2015 Activator holds a National Diploma, a B-tech in Geology as well as a Masters in Environmental Science. Kasi Oprah (as many of her mentees refer to her) has vast mining and natural science working experience and academic background. Through her organization, Tjale’s Girls In Science, she has and still continues to, dedicate her life to the development of poor young girls who have dreams of becoming scientists.
She does this through hosting science career exhibitions, indentifying potential future scientists, and linking them up with potential bursary opportunities as well as offering mentorship support for young black girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Her dedication to science development has earned her an honorary exclusive invitation from the American government’s global announcing science promotion called the “Hidden No More” initiative.
While speaking to American media houses about her science youth development background, she recalled a day when she was doing career awareness at her secondary school, but to her surprise not even a single learner knew what palaeontologists do. That sad discovery, together with fact that Tjale never had a black female math or physics teacher, was one of many reasons that she decided to be one of the shining examples of young science trailblazers.
See Tjale’s participation in America HERE.
“I realized these kids need to see someone that looks like them for them to believe it is possible to also become a scientist. Hence I took it upon myself to go around and do what I do. The greatest challenge would be the lack of information or access to it, as most people in rural areas don’t have access to the internet and the relevant information,” said Tjale.
Tjale is one of a few Activators who are beneficiaries of Activate and Indian based entrepreneurship development called Startup Safari. In 2018 she, together with Vusi Tshabalala, was awarded a 10 day scholarship to go and learn to navigate complicated entrepreneurship ecosystems from an Asian point of view.
Despite achieving a number of seemingly impossible career milestones, Tjale still attributes some parts of her powerful social leadership roles to ACTIVATE! Change Drivers and the ACTIVATE! Network leaders.
‘’I am very grateful for all the little things that I have achieved in my young life. I honestly think that somehow credit should go to ACTIVATE! Leadership, because without some of the things that they taught us, I do not believe that I would have been as effective and influential as I am today’’ said Tjale.
This is a story from the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers Network. A network of over 4200 diverse young people driving change for the public good across South Africa. Members of this network, Activators, are connected by their passion, skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges.