Mateus Paulus

PUPILS who aspire to be engineers must remember the importance of Science, Technology, English and Mathematics (STEM) because without them they cannot realise their dream.

This was said by Dr Rosalia Sinvula, one of the co-founders of the Namibia Women in Engineering (NAMWIE).

This is a voluntary association that aims to promote awareness in engineering as a career choice for girls and provide a support platform for women engineers in the country.

Sinvula says she is passionate about engineering that she does not see the difference between men and women when executing their work.

“I think is important not to focus on criticism but on my dream as an engineer. This helps me not to concentrate on negative things that people say but on my dream as an engineer,” she said.

Reflecting on her work environment, she said resentment resistance from male colleagues does not bother her if it does not prevent her from performing her work as an engineer.

“You need to focus on who you are professionally and why you are doing that work. I tell myself that it’s not about who you are but what you can do and how you stand your ground and prove yourself. It is an opportunity to prove who you are,” she said.

Dr Sinvula said in most cases women put in about 10 percent more effort than men who are in similar positions because they are always under pressure to perform and go the extra mile.

“The results of the work justify the effort as women also tend to be more productive than men in similar positions,” said Sinvula, a co-founder of NAMWIE and vice-president of the organization which was officially launched in 2018.

She said one of the activities engineers are engaged in is the NAMWIE National STEM Quiz designed to highlight to pupils that they will not go far without the four STEM subjects.

The quiz focuses on girls in Grade 8 to Grade 10 to gauge how much they know on these subjects that every child aspiring to take up engineering as a career, must have.

“We ask different questions about computers, mathematics and general science. For Grade 8 pupils we focus on life science and on technology, especially computers to gauge if pupils at this level have a clue of what we are asking about.

“If they don’t understand we discuss this fact with their teachers on how to improve certain aspects and for them to have zeal to learn from their teachers,” she said.

According to Sinvula, nine schools took part in last quiz held in June 2021. This was a virtual quiz funded by NamPower Foundation. Top performers were awarded trophies and cash prizes.

The main objective is to entice girls to learn these subjects and to give them a break from the traditional way of learning and to give girls a new learning experience, she said.

The challenges encountered in hosting the virtual quiz during Covid restrictions were that some schools had problems connecting to the internet.

“In addition, some teachers and pupils had problems downloading material from the computers and we first had to teach them and do trial runs for them. Out of 23 schools that had shown interest in the quiz, only nine took part,” she said.

This year’s World Engineering Day was celebrated at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School in Windhoek on 24 Mach with sponsorship from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Nampower Foundation.

It was held under the theme “Engineering Innovation for a more Resilient Namibia”.

Sinvula said this theme speaks about innovation to grow the Namibian economy by fostering the Namibian engineers and the World Engineers Day is organized by UNESCO to provide an opportunity to raise the profile of engineers and technicians and their role in improving the quality of life worldwide and attaining the United Nations sustainable development goals.

She said this year’s celebration was different in that NAMWIE decided to include girls because these are the future engineers whom they wanted to give a platform to articulate their opinions regarding innovation in Namibia.

“We have to prepare the Namibian girl child to manage the uncertain future because we have to prepare the girls how to handle everything regarding that future,” she said.

This year we came up with certain essay topics and asked schools to select pupils to write about the topics, six schools nominated three pupils each to write essays on the titles: “The role of engineers in the development of Namibia” and “What can be done to grow the Namibian economy”.

Sinvula said three pupils got cash prizes of N$1 000, N$750 and N$500 each for coming first, second and third and three other pupils were given cash prizes of N$250 each on merit.

Apart from the essay competition representatives of UNESCO, USAID and the Ministry of Education and more than 70 people attended the event including MAMWIE members from the Namibia University of Science and Technology.

“One NAMWIE member shared her experiences as an engineer highlighting the challenges and how good the engineering career is.

“We also had encouragement remarks from the Federation of African Engineers expressing their support,” Sinvula noted.

Commenting on the International Women’s Day she said the day should be used to create a platform for sharing information about engineering.

“Women are the best placed to tell their stories including challenges and how they overcame them. This is to inspire girls at an early age to know that they do not have to always live in poverty. They should be inspired by women who grew up in rural areas but end up going to university after which they become engineers.”

She advised women, particularly the youth that are in the process of joining engineering that this is a career not meant for men only but also for women as well and it is a challenge that requires dedication to achieve one’s goals.

“Criticism will always come in the industry but this should be taken as an encouragement to inspire you to study harder and become a better engineer.

“You must welcome and teach younger ones coming into the industry that women can also do the work as well as men,” Sinvula said who is the engineer/project manager at NamPower where she has worked for 10 years managing sub-stations and the transmission project.

Sinvula holds a Doctor of Electrical Engineering as well as a masters from the Cape Peninsula University in South Africa, is registered by the Namibia Engineers Association and serves on various bodies.

She also sits on the board of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NUST in addition to other corporate responsibilities.