Chipping away at stereotypes in geology

Rabia Jacobs has fallen in love with geology, although she did not plan on doing it as a major when she decided to study towards her Bachelor of Science degree.

A Lansdowne-based University of Cape Town (UCT) student and her postgraduate peers are slowly chipping away at stereotypes while working towards their honours degree in geology.

Rabia Jacobs graduated with her BSc in environmental science and geology on Thursday March 31. Being a farmer has always been her dream, but because of a lack of funds, she could not study agriculture. She faced a dilemma at registration in her first year – not knowing she needed two majors. She decided on geology, as it seemed the best fit with environmental and geographic science.

Along the way, she and her postgrad peers have also been chipping away at stereotypes. Ten years ago, Rabia would have been a rarity in a UCT geology honours class. In a field trodden by men, it’s taken time to change that profile, she said. In 2022, most of her classmates are young women of colour, creating a buzz – the “feminine energy” underlying mutual belief and support, Rabia said.

Five years ago, UCT wasn’t anywhere on her radar. Rabia was taking a gap year and into community greening and then urban farming to gain work experience and earn money.

“And that’s what really inspires me – it’s never over. There is always something more to be studied. I’d always wanted to be a farmer. I was particularly interested in urban farming and how that helps communities. One day I hope to have a proper urban farm. I do see myself as an urban farmer.”

With her love for science, she is only optimistic about the future.

“There are so many women out there changing the world of science; contributing to science and geology and changing the narrative and look (of the field). Many people see South Africa as part of the Third World. We often look to the global north for solutions. But we’ve got so many opportunities to create our own solutions – and so many young students with great minds.”