Wynberg Girls’ High School celebrated its 135th anniversary last Friday with a founder’s day assembly.
Guest speaker Hlumelo Marepula, who recently won an innovation competition, encouraged the girls to pursue careers in science.
Having matriculated from Wyberg Girls’ High School as the head girl of Waterloo House in 2014, Ms Marepula is in her final year of a BSc degree in civil engineering at UCT.
In May, she won the inaugural Falling Walls Lab competition held at UCT.
Falling Walls Lab is an international forum for outstanding young innovators and creative thinkers in the fields of science, technology and medicine to present their ideas to the public.
In three minutes, Ms Marepula presented her idea on “Breaking the Wall of Synthetic Urea Production”, where she rethinks waste, such as urine, as a resource that can be recovered to produce something valuable like fertiliser for food.
This could have huge implications for food security, sustainable energy production and global warming mitigation.
After winning the competition, she is headed to Berlin later this year, where she will compete with 99 other finalists in the world finals of the competition.
In her address she spoke about how young girls are often not encouraged to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
She said that as a student, she had been encouraged to take up arts subjects, while boys had been encouraged to take up engineering subjects.
She said that was not a Wynberg schools problem or a girls’ schools problem but a societal problem that had to be changed.
“We need to see women differently as a society,” she said.
After attending a women-in- engineering conference that was recommended to her by one of her teachers in her earlier high school years, she went home and told her mother that she wanted to become an engineer so that she could pave the way for future female engineers.
She spoke about the times when she had had to deal with remarks from men in her field who would ask her male classmates if she was their girlfriend and did not recognise her as a civil engineering student too.
Besides facing adversities,Ms Marepula said she was proud to be where she is today.
Candles of remembrance were lit during the assembly for those affected by gender-based violence in the country.
School principal Shirley Harding was also presented with the Golden Lion award, the school’s highest award, for her service to the school. Ms Harding will be leaving the school at the end of this year.