An orphan who defied the odds

HARARE - AT 16, Sicelo Dube’s dream of mixing it with the big boys in what has been generally an exclusive club of scientists appeared dead in the water when she lost
her parents.

Her aunt who briefly took over the herculean task of funding her education staggered and eventually gave up — further raising serious questions on whether the lanky
Dube would ever progress beyond what she had achieved.

But the Catholic Church rescued her dream and took over her education responsibilities up to university level, laying  a foundation that would, 15 years later, enable
Dube to cut it with the men in the world of science, both in education and industry.

“That is one of the many reasons I am so keen to help the poor in society so that they can also realise their dreams,” Dube said in an exclusive interview.

Today, Dube is a rising executive who has taken it upon herself to assist the less privileged in society through the establishment of the Elevate Trust, a youth
leadership and development institution which seeks to create youth leadership programmes.

The Trust also seeks to facilitate youth development in innovation, entrepreneurship and career development under the universal theme “science pays”.

Dube, who is also a director at science-focused firm, Laboratory Equipment and Consumables (Lec Biotech), said Elevate’s emphasis is on Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and careers, research, innovations and entrepreneurship.

“Elevate has a bias towards female students thus making progress towards promoting gender equity and equal opportunities in the STEM related fields,” she said with an
affectionate smile.

The Trust, which is set to be officially launched next month, is leading the effort to create a science and technology incubator to foster entrepreneurship among young scientists.

“Science and Technology incubators accelerate the successful development of science ideas into entrepreneurial companies by providing an array of business support resources and services. This will result in job creation for science graduates and it is a sure way of spearheading innovation and industrialisation in science,” Dube said.

The former school teacher, who established her first company in 2011 after seeing a gap in the country’s education sector, said Elevate aims to be a part of the collaborative effort to inspire students to take up STEM-related career options.

“We also want to contribute towards achieving gender parity in the STEM field workforce and fuel industrialisation through youth capacity building and commercialisation of research ideas in the field of Science and Technology.

“All of which, ultimately drives socioeconomic development and improves the livelihood of its people,” Dube said.

Elevate pursues its goals through three main projects — Innovators’ Hub Club (IHC), SciTechInc Lab and STEMfem Network.

Dube further indicated that the innovators’ club assists in increasing tertiary students’ interest in STEM subjects through awareness about career options, development of science-related businesses and  socio-economic problem solving.

“The main aim of the club is to provide a platform for nurturing the innovation of STEM ideas, development of STEM businesses and solutions during the course of tertiary education. Some of the activities include, club meetings, boot camps, innovators fairs, job shadowing, mentorship programmes, seminars, entrepreneurship training, community work and career guidance days,” she said.

She, however, noted that the Science and Technology Incubator Lab is a platform for nurturing scientists who are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Dube said the lab will assist in the development and encouragement of problem solving skills among young innovators from a community level up to national and
international level under the mentorship and coaching of experienced industry figures.

“SciTechInc, which is designed to help scientists commercialise their innovative research ideas, covers a range of STEM disciplines with a bias towards bio-innovations. The project focuses on making science a business rather than a career, hence our tagline ‘Science Pays,’” she added.

The Science and Technology Incubator Lab covers a range of STEM disciplines such as ICT, Agriculture, Biotechnology, Energy, Environment, Food and Nutrition and Health
with particular bias on Bio-innovations.

The lab will also offer mentoring and coaching, information sharing platform, research training workshops, and bioscience entrepreneurial training opportunities to the young scientists and innovators.

“The STEMfem Network is a platform for capacity building, networking and nurturing of females in the field of STEM.

Its main goal is to improve the interaction of higher and tertiary education female students in STEM with the women in industry to better prepare female students to enter the male dominated industry.

The bias towards females is aimed at achieving gender parity in the science fields,” Dube said.

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