Nkateko Matjeke is an engineer at MTN.
Nkateko Matjeke only started to use a laptop when she enrolled for a higher diploma in electrical engineering at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

This may seem odd for someone who had the ambition of venturing into a technical field, but it’s a story that is common for learners from many township and rural schools across South Africa.

However, being computer illiterate did not deter Matjeke from pursuing her dream to study electrical engineering (heavy current).

Matjeke, 23, from Hammanskraal, is the only female technician at a leading plastics bottle manufacturing company. Her journey in a male-dominated field was not easy.

“When I passed Grade 12, I was split between taking a gap year and enrolling at the University of Pretoria to start studies in electrical engineering.

“I was confident that I would secure a place at the university because of my good marks.

“I was very disappointed when they told me there was no space for me to enrol in my chosen field and that I therefore had to forfeit the registration fee that I had secured after I emerged as the top student in maths at my school,” recalls Matjeke.

It was at this point that the MTN SA Foundation team, who run various outreach programmes in the Hammanskraal area, heard about Matjeke’s disappointment.

The team saw in Matjeke a hard-working, talented young woman who deserved to be given the opportunity to further her studies.

Matjeke said the foundation not only offered her a full bursary to study at TUT starting in mid-term, but also arranged all the paperwork and secured student accommodation as well.

“The bursary gave me the opportunity to focus on my studies without having to worry about my day-to-day expenses.

“I was able to finish my studies in record time and secure an internship at MTN where I received on-the-job training.”

She said the money she saved from her allowances enabled her to pay the registration fee for her twin sister, Tsakane, who had enrolled at Wits University to study speech and hearing therapy.

“My father passed away last year, and my mother relies on a state pension. I am grateful for the opportunity I received from the MTN Foundation.

“This enabled me to not only pay for my twin sister’s registration fee, but also fund her day-to-day expenses,” said Matjeke, whose first name means blessing.

The self-driven Matjeke, who is completing a B-Tech degree in electrical engineering this year, has some words of wisdom for young girls who wish to pursue studies in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths.

“You need to change the mindset that certain careers are meant for men.

“Careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) don’t require physical strength, but the mental ability which girl students have in abundance.

“You must stop limiting yourself to certain occupations.

“Go out there and study for anything you want to be, and invite God in everything you do.”