Dream big, girls told

Airline pilot Michelene Naidoo, neurosurgeon Dr Ncumisa Jilata, Dare to Dream project managers Petunia Thulo and, Sabine Clappaert, Bloubergrant High School teacher Rolandia Marks and Kfm presenter Andy Maqondwana.

A sentence that starts with “An airline pilot, a neurosurgeon and radio jock walk into a school hall…” sounds like it should have a funny punchline, but the trio who visited Bloubergrant High School last week had serious work to do.

The three women were there at the invitation of Dare to Dream, an organisation that encourages girls to follow their dreams.

Its motto is “If you can dream it, you can do it”, and to drive home the point, it gets inspirational women to visit high schools to show girls that the sky is the limit.

And the sky is quite literally the limit for Michelene Naidoo, the airline pilot who was one of the three women who came to talk to the pupils.

The other two were Dr Ncumisa Jilata, a neurosurgeon, and Andy Maqondwana, a Kfm radio presenter.

Ms Naidoo is a pilot for South African Express Airways.

“I’ve always had this passion for flying,” she said.

“I became part of the Young Falcons in Ysterplaat, and one day while flying as a passenger with one pilot, he gave me control of the aircraft, and I was only 15 years old. Since then, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.”

She told the schoolgirls how she had been raised by a single mom and endured flocks of sexist comments about women not being able to fly planes.

About 10 Grade 7 girls from West Riding Primary and 12 from Rustenburg Girls’ High School joined the event at Bloubergrant.

Bloubergrant High teacher Rolandia Marks said they wanted their girls to dream big and realise that nothing was impossible.

Petunia Thulo, a Dare to Dream project manager, said they tried to find young, inspirational speakers the girls could relate to.

Dr Jilata, 30, described how she had been inspired when the first African in space, Mark Shuttleworth, had visited her high school.

“One thing I remember from what he said was that we need to remember that whatever happens in our life, we are worthy of greatness. There is only one version of yourself.

“When you look back at your life when you are in your 30s, you should be able to look back and say that you are proud of the 16-year-old and the choices you made,” she said.