YOUNG MARITIME STUDENT AIMS TO BREAK THE GENDER BIAS AT SEA
The specialist field of Maritime Studies doesn’t reflect our current world where we are striving for gender equality. With fewer than ten percent of students being women in this field of studies, it is even more surprising to find a young girl from landlocked Somerset East at the helm.
“I want to go to sea and work as a navigating officer until I reach chief mate, which will take about 10 years. Chief mate is just below captain, you’re the captains ‘right hand man’. The industry is very male dominated, out of 110 maritime students in my class, only 9 are girls,” explained Sesona Mjuleni, second year student at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, studying towards a National Diploma in Maritime Studies (Navigation) and a Cookhouse Wind Farm scholarship beneficiary.
She continued explaining that this field is so male dominated that China do not even permit women to study Maritime. “This male-dominated environment will most definitely be a challenge for me once I start going on to the ships and possibly working my way up. I do find it quite intimidating and a lot of men keep saying to me ‘what is a pretty girl like you studying this’ or ‘the sea is no place for a woman’.
But this has not stopped Sesona from pushing on. Her life has not been easy but she is determined and passionate about a life at sea. She has a ten year plan mapped out that includes a stint in Maritime Law when she has completed her ten years at sea, or perhaps even career as a Harbour Master.
“I always wanted to drive something, maybe become a pilot or drive a locomotive. When I told my teacher about this, he suggested that I look into Maritime studies. I initially signed up to do Aviation but due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to make the interview. I didn’t let this get me down and I took this as a sign that I was meant to look at Maritime studies. I have loved every minute of it since making this decision,” says Sesona.
She is one of twelve scholarship recipients from REISA Solar Farm, Umoya Energy Wind Farm and Cookhouse Wind Farm that spent part of their winter term holiday attending programmes that are designed to equip students with necessary skills required for them to be successful students and to address real-life problems in a collaborative way and prepare for the so-called 21st century learning.
“For many young people, being awarded a scholarship is often the only option available for after-school education. However, we like to support our learners with more than just financial assistance as it is often life skills and emotional integration that lead to unnecessary stress and dropouts,” explained Elton Gordon, Community Operations Manager for Cookhouse Wind Farm.
The Cookhouse Wind Farm Scholarship Programme was launched four years ago with the aim to provide tertiary education funding for youth. The focus is to contribute towards human resource development in fields considered critical for the South African economy.