Head of the Applied Chemistry Department at the University of Johannesburg, Prof. Jane Ngila says winning the Women in Science Award is humbling and the accolade, ‘Is not just for me, but for women and girls in science.”
Ngila, whose career in science spans for over 20 years, recently won the award in the Distinguished Women Researcher in Physical and Engineering Sciences category.
The Kenyan born professor has taught in several universities namely, the Kenyatta University, University of Botswana and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
She has also received numerous awards, authored and co-authored over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles and books, and in addition has presented more than 120 conference papers in various countries.
Currently, she is doing research in the area of water quality management by developing analytical techniques to monitor water pollutants.
Jane Ngila presents her research at her Professorial Inauguration. Source UJ
Speaking to SABC Digital News, Ngila says it is a great honour to have her academic and research achievements over the past two decade recognised.
“It is a very humbling experience and I’m very proud that the department is recognising women in science and particularly this is very important because this is going to help in terms of role modelling for young girls who are doing science, they want to see, where does this science take me.”
The mother of four grown children says there are lot of sacrifices that she had to make as a woman and a mother, but looking back now her children very proud of her.
“Being a mother means that you are in charge of your home, in terms of you have to know what everybody is going to eat, so you have to take care of the household, I must say, that is very challenging because there are many times I would of wanted to go and do experiments so that I could publish papers, so that I could be recognised, but then I would look and say I know I have to take care of my children, I have to cook, I have to spend time with my children, that in itself is time consuming, so you have to balance the act.”
I worked so hard to make sure that I never have to live in the rural areas where I have to walk long distance, fetch water , firewood
Ngila says as a young girl, the poverty and hard work in the village motivated her to strive to succeed and to be an important person living in the cities.
“How I was motivated, was running away from village life and poverty so that I could work a decent job and never have to go back to till the land.”
The UJ professor says when she was in primary school between 1969 and 1975, she would do all sorts of house chores including walking five kilometres to go and fetch water early in the morning before walking again to school.
“After school, I would come home running to fetch firewood and pound maize to prepare food for the family. We used to take turns with my sisters. Boys were exempted from such house chores because traditionally boys were not allowed to cook or carry water on their heads, or pound maize for cooking. So at an early young age, I felt discriminated against by the culture just because I was a girl.”
Ngila says, “So I worked so hard to make sure that I never have to live in the rural areas where I have to walk long distance, fetch water , firewood.”
“Despite the fact that my father was a District Chief during the Kenyan British Rule, our large family led similar life style as any other family in the rural areas. One thing I am happy about by upbringing is that I never went hungry without food but I had to work so hard in farming to be able to put that food on the table.”