Samukelisiwe Dube wants to inspire other young people in her community to use technology to better their lives.

TECHNOLOGY can help bring positive change to communities.

Two young women, Samukelisiwe Dube and Ntombifuthi Mwale, are proving that exposure to technological skills impacts communities in a way that improves lives and empowers those in disadvantaged areas.

Mwale and Dube are beneficiaries of Huawei’s bursary programme which offers students from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to flourish and accomplish their aspirations and academic goals while also ensuring they are equipped to enter the workplace.

The programme is open to second, third, and fourth-year students studying across a broad range of fields, including towards degrees in Computer Science and Information Systems.

Ntombifuthi Mwale is a beneficiary of the Huawei Bursary Programme and wants to use the opportunity to further her studies.

Mwale, 23, was born and grew up in Ivory Park, a township in Midrand, where she still lives with her grandmother, mother, two uncles, and five siblings.

“Most people living in Ivory Park are unemployed or working class,” she says.

Despite those circumstances, she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Johannesburg in 2021.

Although she started working straight after obtaining her degree, she realised that she wasn’t done with studying.

Fortunately, being accepted into Huawei’s Bursary Programme gave her the opportunity to go back and pursue her honours degree.

Mwale has big aspirations for herself and for her family.

“My biggest goals are obtaining my honours degree, working in a well-respected organisation, and saving enough so that I can build my mom a house,” she says.

She also wants to inspire others.

“Being the first graduate in my family, I want to use my achievement to inspire my siblings and the youngsters in my neighbourhood to pursue their education,” she adds.

“By being a light of knowledge in my town, I hope to bring about a revolutionary shift.”

Dube has similarly high-minded aspirations. Born and raised in Johannesburg and currently living in Boksburg, she is studying Information Science at the University of Pretoria.

“I believe that this bursary will not only kickstart the career that I strive to have within ICT, but it will also help me grow in the skills I need to be an active citizen in the information and knowledge society that we are moving towards globally,” she says.

Both women also recognise how important the ICT skills they’re developing through their studies are. That’s true not just of their own career prospects but for South Africa’s ability to achieve the kind of transformation necessary for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Samukelisiwe Dube believes 4IR will transform the lives of citizens.

“In the context of South Africa, 4IR can promote economic expansion, job transformation, boost productivity, and raise its citizen’s standards of living,” says Dube.

The 4IR skills she’s building now means that she, “will be able to educate my community about digital inclusion and the use of technology.”

For Dube, 4IR comes with immense promise for the broader continent, too.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution, as a global movement towards a greater technological standing, has the ability to thrust Africa into a better position in terms of its global technical standing,” she says.

“The advancements that result will bring about a new and dynamic environment that deals with new threats but also new possibilities that need to be delved into further. I believe that I will be able to assist in pioneering knowledge that has never been dealt with.”

Given the gender gap that exists across the full spectrum of digital skills (for example, sub-Saharan Africa has one of the widest mobile internet gender gaps in the world, with just 37% of women and 74% of men across the region able to access it), the ambitions of these two young women should be lauded.

They are, after all, studying in a field that’s still dominated by men, with women accounting for just 32% of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) graduates in South Africa.   

As Mohammed Bismilla, Huawei’s Head of Emerging Talent explains, the company is committed to helping close this gap through initiatives such as the bursary programme.

“Huawei is heavily invested in ensuring that South Africa’s youth have the skills needed for the country to compete in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR),” he says.

“We could not credibly claim to be serious about that investment if we didn’t aim for gender parity in our bursary and graduate programmes, which looks to take on between 60 and 70 graduates a year, who are then placed in different parts of the business.

“Of course, organisations that embrace diversity at all levels are also more innovative and successful, meaning we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we weren’t committed to real representation.”

By firmly grasping the opportunities available to them, the bursary recipients will act as role models for those who follow them.

In doing so, they will help to transform not just their own communities but South Africa as a whole.

It just goes to show what can happen when someone is given a chance to fulfil their true potential.

About the Huawei Bursary Programme

In order to qualify for the bursary programme, students have to be South African citizens who are pursuing an undergraduate, Honours or Master’s degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or Information Technology, Computer Science, or Information Systems. They must also be in their second, third, or final year of studies in 2023, be studying at a recognised tertiary institution in South Africa with which Huawei has a partnership, and have a strong academic performance with a minimum GPA of 65%.