National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Jacobie Mouton (studying BSc Mathematical Science, Computer Science)

Jacobie Mouton is from the Western Cape. She is studying BSc Mathematical Science (Computer Science) at the University of Stellenbosch

“The collective output of the scientific community over the years is just utterly mind blowing… [this] inspires me to work hard so that I may also one day make my own contribution.”

Tell us a bit about your school.

I went to the beautiful Hoër Meisieskool Bloemhof in Stellenbosch where I learned many life lessons and made even more close friends. Bloemhof taught me a lot about respecting myself and others. The teachers upheld a very high standard of teaching for which I will always be grateful. Their dedication and support contributed a great deal to my achievements in matric and even now at university. The best part of my time at school was the unity and ‘skooltrots’ that I felt whilst being part of a class, grade and school. I doubt that I will ever experience that to the same extent again in this new world that I have now entered where it seems that everyone is chasing their own dreams. I am very blessed to have been given the opportunity to receive my education at an excellent school like Bloemhof. I therefore faced very few challenges when it came to mastering new skills and concepts and preparing for the exams as I always had great support from my parents and teachers. They would always put in the extra time to help me. I feel that the key to overcoming any challenge is to believe in yourself, but also to know when to ask for help and to build a strong support structure of friends and family.

Why did you enjoy science and mathematics?


I have always enjoyed being in nature and learning more about how the world around me works. My father is a professor in zoology at Stellenbosch University and I use to go along with him sometimes when they did their research in the field. I think this exposure to the world of science really sparked my interest in it. Mathematical concepts have always been easy for me to grasp and I love solving problems using logical deductions through maths. I have also been fortunate to have fantastic math and science teachers both in primary school and high school. They helped to cultivate a love for the mathematical and science world in me. We are obviously all different and our minds process the world around us in different ways. Therefore, not everyone can grasp and truly understand maths and science as easily as others. Having a strong foundation, especially in maths, is key to mastering new skills and concepts. I feel that this foundation is not so stable for many. The right educator makes all the difference. If they love what they teach and have an in-depth understanding of the concepts, they can introduce and guide a student through a whole world of new ideas which the student will be able to truly appreciate. Unfortunately, these types of people are not always that easy to come by.

Any tips for learners in grades 11 and 12?


Looking back, I realise that even though it is important to work hard to achieve your best, it is also important to fully enjoy your last and hopefully best years in school and to make memories with your friends.

What inspires you?

The collective output of the scientific community over the years is just utterly mind blowing. The achievements, inventions and discoveries made by humans, as well as the beauty of the natural world and all the mysteries it still holds, inspires me to work hard so that I may also one day make my own contribution.

What advice do you have for matriculants who have to apply for places at higher education institutions?

It’s never too soon to start doing your research about the different options for higher education, types of courses, and getting funding. The variety of courses out there, many of which you have never even heard about before, can be quite overwhelming. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to study, but I found it helped to work through the possibilities and systematically eliminate those that did not suit me. It also pays to work hard. Good marks in matric can earn you an academic bursary at university which always help.

Why did you choose the course you are studying now?

I knew I wanted to study something in the BSc field. I took a bit of a gamble in choosing computer science, especially as I have never had any exposure to this subject before starting this year. The idea of using mathematically-based concepts, as well as logical thinking, to solve problems in a creative way caught my attention. In our modern computerised society this degree will also to an extend ensure job security.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I have absolutely no idea where I will be 10 years from now. I tend to live in the present and only plan for the near future. This is may not always be the best strategy, but life has a way of throwing all kinds of strange turns so that you can never be certain where you will end up. No matter how well you plan your path. I do, however, want to complete my honours or masters degree overseas, but I know that I will be very lucky if I get to fulfil this dream.

Understanding excellence  

I believe that an achiever is not just someone who accomplishes something never done before, but rather those who set goals for themselves and reach those goals despite obstacles they might face. To achieve one’s goals, one needs to be motivated and dedicated to make one’s dreams become a reality.

A message to South African youth?

I think it is vitally important for the youth to realise that even though education is a basic human right, it is still an amazing privilege to be given the opportunity to learn more about our world. So many people’s dreams and plans for the future are limited because they did not have access to basic education. If you take this idea to heart, you will be much more motivated to give your best and make the most of the opportunities you have been given. The NSTF Brilliants Programme recognises 18 first-year students (a male and female from each province) studying in the science, medicine and engineering fields. These students have received top marks in mathematics and physical science in the National Senior Certificate Examinations last year. (This year there are 20 students.)

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