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UWC chemistry lecturer empowers girls to finish school

Dr Natasha Ross, founder of the Akeelah Foundation strives to empower young girls. Photo: Supplied

Dr Natasha Ross, founder of the Akeelah Foundation strives to empower young girls. Photo: Supplied

Published May 14, 2021

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In many impoverished areas around Cape Town high school pupils far too often become a matric drop-out statistic.

To turn the tide, Dr Natasha Ross, a senior chemistry lecturer at UWC, has started a NPO for young women, to complete their schooling.

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Statistics South Africa in an analysis of household survey data indicated that in recent years at least 50% of youths complete grade 12.

The Akeelah Foundation was created to empower girls aged 12-18 to build their self-esteem and developing their cognitive abilities and physical and social skills and encourage them to complete their schooling.

Ross grew up in Hawston in the Overberg district and experienced first-hand what being raised in a poverty-stricken area is like.

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Dr Natasha Ross is passionate about community outreach to young women. Photo: Supplied

She said: “Coming from an impoverished small fishing village myself, I understand the dire need for mentorship and financial support at school level. I wish to see more girls from my community rise above their circumstances and help others do the same.”

The name Akeelah means wise, and the foundation aims to raise a generation of – “women displaying Wisdom, Ingenuity, Self-Esteem and Excellence” or the acronym WISE.

“The vision of the Akeelah Foundation is to provoke young women in impoverished communities to have big dreams and equip them with the required skills and resources in order to pursue them,” Ross added.

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The foundation will provide young women with mentorship, skills development and financial support that will contribute to the educational and career goals that they have set for themselves.

It takes a village to raise a child and at Akeelah, Ross’ fellow founders are empowered educators – Professor Fanelwa Ajayi, associate professor of physical chemistry at UWC; Portia Kleinschmidt, career guidance counsellor at Hawston Secondary School; Elizabeth Jakobs, UWC LLB Law graduate and practitioner; and Elizabeth West, international missionary, mentor and coach.

Ross said: “Our mission is to foster the empowerment of school-going girls in our communities to strive for better, no matter the circumstances they may face.”

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Any businesses or individuals that would like to contribute to the Akeelah Foundation can contact them via email: [email protected]

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