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Hidden Figures: a story with impact

LEAP students and teachers from our Cape Town and Ga-Rankuwa campuses recently went to watch the film Hidden Figures. The story is set in 1960’s USA, inspired by the true life events of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan who worked for NASA during the space-race between Russia and the USA. This was during the period of legalised segregation in America when African Americans faced indignities, oppressions and difficulties that are still closely identifiable by many South Africans.

Masala Film Works is working with various partners to make the movie accessible to school students as part of a wider STEM development programme. They believe Hidden Figures represents an extraordinary opportunity to leverage the power of cinema to inform, educate and inspire learners, teachers, communities and girls in particular to re-imagine the value of STEM education as the most crucial driver in shaping the future of our youth.

Here is what LEAP teachers and students had to say after they saw the movie:

“I had been confused and not sure about my career choice, but after watching Hidden Figures I felt a sense of clarity. As a young black woman it taught me that the potential you possess as an individual is greater than anything and that you just have to believe in yourself and achieve your goals. Nothing can hinder you to become what you want to be despite certain circumstances and I felt empowered and overwhelmed.” – Natasha Machiridza, Future Leaders Programme teacher in training

“I once loved science and maths but as I started high school my attitude towards these two subjects changed. I thought that maths and science were not for girls but after watching this movie I realised that as a girl I can do whatever I want and nobody else can stop me from doing what I like. I also learnt that as women we let people discourage us and we should stop that.” – Tshiamo Ratlhogo, grade 10 student

“Since grade 6 I always wanted to become an astronaut. It was my only dream and I always thought that even if I could not achieve it then I would become an astronomer. I never got any motivation from people outside because they always told me that I was short and I was not physically strong. Although I was still able to stand by my choices, I was no longer happy to tell people about my dreams. But ever since I saw the movie Hidden Figures I realised that there is no greater weapon than myself. It showed me I could be anything I want to be if I believe and trust in myself.” – Shanelle Makobe, grade 10 student

“Hidden Figures is not so hidden after all. My girls and I loved every bit of the movie; our worth in society has been reassured and we are reminded of our forefathers/ mothers who paved the way. So we can dream even bigger dreams. Walking on the moon is no-longer a dream it was done. As young black girls coming from an impoverished background where we still have nay sayers we believe in ourselves no matter the circumstances. We are more than conquerors we are victorious in our walk and our belief that anything is possible. The movie highlighted the pain and the shame that America went through during that time and if not for the tenacity of those three incredible women I asked myself ‘would John Glenn go into orbit?’” – Letitia Kayemb, Future Leaders Programme teacher in training

“I found the movie very inspiring and motivating. I see how black oppression hindered women from personal growth, not acknowledging their hard work which made a huge difference to NASA. This movie has taught me that education is power and perseverance is inevitable” – Rabia Soofie, Life Science and Geography teacher

“I was personally so inspired by this movie that I even decided to change my future career. By watching this movie I have learnt to never underestimate my capabilities as a young woman and to put my education first. I’ve learnt that no matter the circumstances and no matter how difficult life is you should never give up because it will be worth it in the end. It’s a great movie and I urge everyone to watch it.” – Karabo Kokose, grade 10 student

“John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth , but couldn’t have done all of that without the efforts of 3 brilliant mathematicians . Yet their work is basically forgotten in the history of the U.S. space programme, as they are  an under-valued minority in every area of science, because they were women. Especifically because they were women of colour (black). This is a very inspiring movie and it would be great if all women and men could watch this it.” – Unathi Tabatha, grade 10 student

“They [the students] really enjoyed the movie and wanted to know if they can…be part of the STEM movement. I was…inspired by how much effort is currently being put into promoting female excellence in the Science and Engineering fields, being a female Science teacher myself.” – Odwa Sivungwa, Science teacher

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