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Nicole de Wet (34)

HOD and senior lecturer in the Department of Demography & Population Studies, Wits University

Demography lecturer Nicole de Wet teaches a scarce skill to social science students who want to learn statistics and quantitative research methods.

“Most of the people in my classes are bachelor of arts students who believe that they need to be super-smart to do statistics. I teach them that there is nothing to fear and that everyone can do statistics. I introduce the subject by showing how it relates to social science topics including HIV and Aids and teenage pregnancy, so my students see how stats apply to existing population issues. When students can relate to issues, they tend to learn concepts quicker, and be able to apply the tools to other problems,” she says.

Having obtained her PhD in demography and population studies and now with 31 published journal articles to her name, De Wet has successfully supervised 28 master’s students to completion.

“I teach students from diverse backgrounds, so I never assume prior knowledge of the subject — I teach everyone from the beginning. With students who have never done mathematics or any other quantitative science, I draw on my own work and the work of students before them as inspiration. Students respond positively to seeing the work of their peers — it gives them confidence that they can do the same.”

De Wet also holds career development workshops throughout the year, teaching students how to conduct oral presentations at conferences, write journal papers, and do peer reviews for journals.

“These are skills that are not taught in any formal curricula, yet which are fundamental to our goal of producing world-class graduates. “For my postgraduate students, I include them in research work that I am doing, and work with them to publish and attend conferences.”

De Wet’s research interest is adolescent health and development. Topics include risky sexual behaviours (including transactional sex, lack of consistent condom use and multiple sexual partners), causes of death (including suicide), perceptions and attitudes toward risky and exploratory behaviours, and disease prevalence among young people. This work is both regionally and globally relevant.

“Teaching, supervision, mentoring and sharing my own experience with students makes me a better researcher, because I need to know all the new developments in the field in order to be a better lecturer.” — Linda Doke

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Dawie Bornman (31)

Dawie Bornman (31)

Senior lecturer, researcher and postgraduate supervisor in the Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria

“Don’t die with your music still inside you” is the motto that motivates Dawie Bornman to “think bigger, and never stop pursuing” his dreams.

As senior lecturer, researcher and post-graduate supervisor in the department of business management at the University of Pretoria, Dawie teaches Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMME) development projects at the Mamelodi Business Clinic and the South African Creative Industries Council (SACII) which structured to empower, develop and build a framework that covers all topics critical to establish, manage and grow a small business.

With a doctorate in communications management, Bornman uses his teaching to introduce unique creative methods for learning integration through music, visual arts, movement-based techniques and illustrations. He believes conveying a message in ways that are “outside the box” sparks inspiration in others and helps transfer academic information into practical understanding.

“I challenge myself by thinking and designing different approaches to my teaching that takes students out of their comfort zones and makes them realise they are capable of far more than they realised,” says Dawie.

“This approach, along with trans-disciplinary integration — such as bringing practical creative arts into pure academic situations — helps me foster newfound appreciation into aspects which students previously would have viewed as dull. Teaching and learning remains professional, but becomes fun, for me and for the students.”

Dawie has been a guest lecturer at various international universities, including Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences in Austria and Karel de Grote University College in Belgium, focusing on business leadership and entrepreneurship in emerging markets — specifically South Africa.

“These experiences keep me on the forefront of what is being focused on in academia on an international level. I’m constantly finding aspects I can then back to integrate into my teaching and learning approaches in the South African landscape.” Bornman also collaborates with Smart Global Training Academy and Biz Skills, assisting school pupils and teachers with professional development aligned with the South African Council for Educators.

“The project gives me better understanding of what is currently going on in the school system, and prepares me for when a new generation learner becomes a student at higher education level.” — Linda Doke

Dr Preya Pillay (29)

Dr Preya Pillay (29)

Lecturer in Curriculum Studies and Social Justice Education, University of the Free State

“Social justice is my passion. Every project I get involved in has to be about empowering people and challenging assumptions about race and gender,” says Dr Preya Pillay. “Gender transformation is important for social cohesion and social justice to the perceived ‘others’.”

Pillay is based at the University of Free State, where she lectures curriculum studies and social justice education. Her research interest is school curricula, specifically commerce textbooks, to unveil ideologies of about how instructional materials shape representations of sexuality and gender. In her downtime she presents seminal talks in rural schools around the Free State on issues of social justice and empowerment.

Pillay studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, completing a Bachelor of Education in 2010. She subsequently did an honours and master’s in education. In 2014 she was granted the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences Doctoral scholarship. Pillay’s PhD examined the constructions of gender in business studies textbooks used in four Southern African countries, revealing that management and entrepreneurship is scripted almost exclusively in favour of men.

“Gender norms embedded in patriarchy continue to be reproduced through exclusion and choices of inclusion. Thus a move towards a gender inclusive curriculum continues to remain a pipe dream.”

During the three years of her PhD studies she presented her research at various conferences, both internationally and locally. Last year she also presented a paper from her PhD at the world’s largest education research conference — American Education Research Association — in Texas, USA. She has also been invited to the Georg Arnhold International Summer School, which will take place in July in Braunschweig, Germany.

Her pedagogy is informed by a quest for commerce education which is socially just and more relevant. “My research argues that as teachers committed to educating students, we need to learn more about how instructional materials shape representations of sexuality and gender. Through insistent deconstruction of the norms that structure practice and belief, critical discourse analysis offers perspectives from which commerce educators and textbook writers can question assumptions embedded in textbooks.” — Rumana Akoob

Hangwelani Hope Magidimisha (33)

Hangwelani Hope Magidimisha (33)

Senior lecturer and academic leader, Planning and Housing, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Dr Hangwelani Hope Magidimisha is the first black South African woman to achieve a PhD in regional planning from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). With a host of peer-reviewed publications to her name — the latest a book published this year on migration in southern Africa — Magidimisha was a PhD researcher at the Human Sciences and Research Council before moving to UKZN, where she teaches and supervises master’s and PhD students and continues her research.

Magidimisha’s administrative competency saw her being appointed as a senior lecturer and academic leader for the housing and town planning cluster, as well as a member of the university Senate and Institutional Forum. She is also a council member of the South African Council for Planners and a committee member of the KZN Planning Tribunal. This caught the attention of the international community, specifically the International Society of City and Regional Planning, which appointed her to direct the first workshop for Young Professional Planners in South Africa in 2016.

“In my field, innovation is often seen as the ability to create value for use by others, and this has been my strategy when reaching out to others. One of my innovative interventions focuses on ways to enable a greater number of students to complete their master’s degree programmes in a relative short period of time, while still in keeping with university regulations,” explains Magidimisha.

To achieve this, she introduced the concept of group supervision, an innovative strategy which heavily relies on group support mechanisms, learning by doing, experience sharing and moral support though under the strict guidance of the supervisor.

“The approach of group supervision removed the element of solitude among students, and helped to boost their morale. The eventual graduation of many students in a relative short space of time was enough testimony to the success of this intervention measure.” — Linda Doke

Hleze Kunju (32)

Hleze Kunju (32)

Lecturer, Rhodes University

Struggling because one is not allowed to study in one’s mother tongue is an issue faced by thousands of young South Africans every year. Restricted to using only English when he enrolled at Rhodes University, Hleze Kunju felt like an outsider in his own province — bereft of his isiXhosa language, he considered himself without culture and identity.

Kunju is now a lecturer at that very university, teaching creative writing and facilitating choir workshops. He wrote the first isiXhosa PhD thesis at Rhodes University, and received The Most Outstanding PhD Thesis Award by the African Language Association of Southern Africa.

A speaker, lecturer, researcher, author, actor, poet and musician, Kunju is motivated to help others who find themselves with the same linguistic challenges he faced as a first-year university student.

“I must be there to make sure that their journey at university is better than mine,” he says.

With his isiXhosa PhD thesis, he put an end to the myth that African languages are not advanced enough to be used in academia. “In my experience, creative writing and academic writing work very closely together. The reason why I can use isiXhosa as an academic language is because I read a lot of isiXhosa creative works and have learned various ways of using the language. If school learners are not reading enough creative literature they will struggle to engage and produce academic literature at university level. I encourage and supervise creative writing students. The more academic and creative literature we have, the better for the future of African languages.

“Contrary to popular belief, by writing in African languages, we are able to reach more African people than when we write in English. IsiXhosa is the second-biggest language in South Africa after isiZulu. IsiXhosa is also used in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Zambia. The only aspect lacking is proper distribution of isiXhosa literature.”

Kunju believes the marginalisation of African languages is one of South Africa’s big challenges. “About 80% of the Eastern Cape’s population are isiXhosa mother tongue speakers, yet this is not reflected in schools, libraries, bookstores or education institutions. Even tombstones of people who never spoke English in their lives are inscribed in English ‘rest in peace’.”

Kunju tells his students: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” He believes it is our responsibility to produce African knowledge in African languages. — Linda Doke

Kgothatso Shai (32)

Kgothatso Shai (32)

Acting HOD: Cultural and Political Studies, University of Limpopo

Limpopo born and bred Kgothatso Shai bases his teaching and writing upon what he refers to as the alternative African-centred perspective, to ensure it has positive reflection for Africa in terms of policy theory and practice.

As a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Limpopo, Shai uses his university classroom teaching to test the credibility, reliability and trustworthiness of the findings of his decolonial African studies. He also provides various media platforms with commentary to shape the ongoing public and policy discourse about topical issues in African politics and international affairs.

Shai’s philosophy behind his dedication to teaching is far-reaching. “For the past decade, I have been conducting scientific research on African politics and international relations. As a trained social scientist, I have come to appreciate the marginalisation of genuine African voices in political science and other cognate academic disciplines. This epistemic injustice has resulted in the superimposition of ideas, theories and philosophies that are rooted within the Westernised or Eurocentric worldview.

“Consequently, much of the existing body of knowledge is a byproduct of transversal errors. Researching African problems using foreign tools and standards has a dangerous potential to produce scholarship without progressive consequences. For this reason, I foreground my scientific publications on the alternative African-centred perspective to ensure that they can have positive consequences for Africa in terms of policy theory and practice.”

Shai remains motivated and inspired by his students and the determination of his late grandmother.

“The cauldron of testimonies of my students at the Universities of Limpopo and Venda keeps me going. Equally, I draw strength from the compliments by my colleagues in South African Association of Political Studies, South African Association of Public Administration and Management and beyond.

“But the fighting spirit of my late grandmother, Mafiri Lewele, completes me. She did not receive a formal education, but always wished me distinctive success in my studies. She was also determined in her responsibility to impart her invaluable knowledge of the fundamentals of African value systems and indigenous knowledge systems.” — Linda Doke

Lethu Kapueja (34)

Lethu Kapueja (34)

Centre manager, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development

With the world moving towards using knowledge, innovation and inventions as critical drivers of economic growth and development, there is an increasing need for competitiveness in knowledge generation.

As centre manager for the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation (DST-NRF) Centre of Excellence in Human Development at Wits University, Lethu Kapueja believes it is important to maintain indispensable skills to conduct and manage research activities and put in place institutional support structures that increase competitiveness amongst researchers.

Kapueja, who leads a team that supports the centre’s director in building a thriving and robust research culture, has been an active member of the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (Sarima) since 2014, and is involved in the development of Sarima’s Professional Competency Framework. The centre functions as a hub for research collaboration and funding on all aspects of human development.

Passionate about social justice, inspired by truth, and challenged by greatness, he sees his work in the education and training sector neatly placed in an environment that is dynamic and flourishing.

“Working within a higher education and training environment, my primary role is to support the researchers in the centre by easing their pursuit of research grants and research projects,” says Kapueja.

“I ensure that research funds are used in accordance with international best practice. I also promote research through creative ways of communicating it to academic communities and the general public. This endeavour promotes the knowledge as well as the knowledge producer and the profile of the centre and funders.”

The programme also sees Kapueja promoting capacity development of people from previously disadvantaged groups.
“Such development helps to build South Africa’s capacity to generate knowledge that is relevant locally yet competitive globally. It is also a task that brings me great pleasure, seeing the various possibilities these groups, in particular black women, are afforded through our direct involvement.” — Linda Doke

Dr Lisa Otto (30)

Dr Lisa Otto (30)

Senior researcher and lecturer, University of Johannesburg

Working on under-explored issues critical to domestic and global agendas is just part of a normal working day for Dr Lisa Otto. Just 30 and with a doctorate in political studies, Otto is a senior researcher and lecturer of maritime security. With a special interest in piracy and maritime crime, she forms part of a small body of researchers and scholars globally who work in this emerging and multi-disciplinary field; an even smaller portion of which are women, and smaller yet, women from Africa and the developing world.

“When I started my PhD, there wasn’t much research being done on piracy on Africa’s west coast. My study set out to examine the evolution for this phenomenon and led to the development of a dataset and typology of maritime crime there,” says Otto.

Her work took her to the University of Greenwich for visiting research, and later the International Maritime Organisation (the United Nations maritime agency) where she had observer status and made use of its resource centre.

“After completing my doctorate, I joined Coventry University where I taught on the world’s only master’s in maritime security, the perfect place to put my expertise to use.”

Having spent years abroad, Otto missed South Africa and wanted to put her unique skill set to work here. She returned in 2017 and joined the University of Johannesburg, where she now teaches at postgraduate level and continues her research.

“I am inspired by my teaching, my research and my students. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to help them on their academic and professional journeys, and fulfilling to think that in doing so, I have made even a small difference. It motivates me to keep doing the work I do, and to be as good an example as I can be. In everything I do, I strive to tread lightly, act with kindness, and to be of service.” — Linda Doke

Metji Makgoba (28)

Metji Makgoba (28)

PhD Commonwealth Scholar, Cardiff University

Metji Makgoba is an educator who seeks to contribute to South Africa’s transformation agenda by helping train the next generation of critical thinkers in intellectual and enterprise skills so they can use their agency to fight for justice in society.

Currently on a scholarship to pursue a doctorate in corporate social investment in the mining industry at Cardiff University, Makgoba lectures communication and media studies at the University of Limpopo.

Inspired by a passion for social justice, his research looks into corporate power, policy, rhetoric and the influence of language in the corporate sector on political agendas.

“I strive to empower my students by teaching them how to notice the nuances of language-in-action as a tool for power used by people to bolster their arguments or those in power to persuade and manufacture consent,” says Makgoba.

Born in a rural village in Limpopo, he was raised by his strict Xhosa mother who taught him the importance of reading newspapers and listening to current affairs programmes, despite her not having a formal education. As a result, he loves reading books and articles that broaden his knowledge and challenge his beliefs and ideological frameworks.

Makgoba maintains his work is informed by the philosophy of ubuntu. “An attitude of diligence and compassion often encourages students to follow suit. I believe that my research, which is critical in nature, epitomises the spirit of ubuntu by critiquing the actions of the powerful with the aim of encouraging accountability. Critiquing people’s actions to promote justice and fairness is rooted in the idea of ubuntu.

“My teaching is student-centred: I consider and understand how the cultural identities of students affects their learning. I think about how I can use their cultural experience and background to enhance their learning, and I believe that working hard with humility to empower students with the best education could go far in developing society.” — Linda Doke

Mzwendaba Jizani (33)

Mzwendaba Jizani (33)

Maths and sciences tutor, South Cape College

Working hard to better oneself ultimately benefits the community as a whole. This is Mzwendaba Jizani’s determined approach to life, and it has seen him progress steadily through his schooling years in the township of Kwanonqaba near Mossel Bay, to become a science and physical science tutor of grades 10, 11 and 12 learners, and a maths tutor for levels N1 to N3.

Jizani prides himself as a mentor for learners who are of an age where responsible role models are critical for their education. He is also a judge at the Eskom Science Expo for Young Scientists.

“As well as tutoring, I provide career guidance to pupils within the Stem fields, and over the past 10 years I have seen more and more learners from the Kwanonqaba community studying further and taking up Stem-related careers,” says Jizani.

Motivated by his learners’ hunger to learn and their eagerness to succeed, as well as the encouragement and motivation of his community and the parents of the learners, Jizani is driven to give of his best, for the good of all.
Funding is the greatest challenge in his work, particularly for winter schools, and for after-school programmes where food is needed for the learners.

“I believe everyone is born with a purpose, and that we need to find that purpose so together we can better our communities. Every student I meet has something positive to offer in the community, and it’s my task, with that student, to find it.” — Linda Doke

Ndumiso Ngidi (31)

Ndumiso Ngidi (31)

Human geography lecturer, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Human geography lecturer Ndumiso Ngidi’s passion for social justice education and transformative education has been largely influenced by specific experiences and events in his life. Losing his mother to a heart condition when he was just 12 months old, and his father to an HIV-related illness when he was seven, Ngidi grew up an orphan, separated from his siblings and raised by various relatives and neighbours.

During this time, Ngidi experienced much abuse and neglect, including being raped by a family friend. These traumas sparked an interest in reading and education.

Throughout his schooling, Ngidi felt there was a mismatch between what was taught and his life experiences, and it was only in his second year of university that he experienced a breakthrough in his learning.

“The subject was a psychology course that focused on violence, abuse and trauma. It was in those classes that for the first time in my life I was able to speak about my experiences, because the lecturer allowed a form of teaching and learning where we as students could contribute meaningfully to the subject matter and feel validated by sharing our experiences. My postgraduate work followed the steps of that psychology course.”

Ngidi began his work within the field of HIV and gender-based violence, working with groups of secondary school learners and university students. He developed innovative methodologies for teaching and learning, as well as research that relied on the collaborative contributions by him and his students, whom he regards as co-educators. He also works with township and rural communities, and particularly with vulnerable learners, trying to understand and address social injustices to which young people are exposed.

“I consider myself a transformative educator and visual researcher. I believe in teaching that fosters collaborative learning and empowers students to think creatively and critically. My teaching is rooted in participatory methodologies, encouraging students to be critical thinkers, participatory and active learners, and to seek alternative possibilities. In my teaching methods I have designed programmes that focus on creating safe spaces where students’ beliefs, experiences and attitudes are not only validated but further re-evaluated.

“I want my students to graduate not only able to answer established questions, but asking critical questions about their relationship with the spaces they occupy. I have therefore introduced participatory visual methodologies — such as photovoice, participatory drawing, cellphilm, digital storytelling and collage — for students to unleash their voices in critically understanding the production of violent space.”

Among numerous awards over the past few years, in 2018 Ngidi won the World Bank and Sexual Violence Research Initiative Award in the Development Marketplace for Innovation on Gender-based Violence Prevention. — Linda Doke

Nomkhosi Luthuli (28)

Nomkhosi Luthuli (28)

Lecturer, University of KwaZulu-Natal: Graduate School of Business & Leadership

“I am driven by wanting to inspire others and by being impactful. I want to know that through my work, I am really adding value and bringing about change not just to myself, but also to the next person and ultimately, society,” says Nomkhosi Hlengiwe Luthuli, the youngest female academic in the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Graduate School of Business & Leadership.

Luthuli has a bachelors and master’s degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), an honours from the University of Cape Town and recently passed a PhD with the Graduate School of Business & Leadership. She teaches Integrative Local Economic Development Research at postgraduate diploma level.

Her PhD is entitled, “A Conceptualisation and Enactment of Regional Economic Development Through the Analysis of the Durban Aerotropolis in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa”. It seeks to build on regional economic development theory through providing an account of how planning for big infrastructure projects and strategic investments such as the aerotropolis and special economic zones relies on the foundational intricacies of strategic spatial planning, multi-pronged governance dynamics, cluster and agglomeration economics as well as co-ordinated investments for regional marketing.

She has recently been nominated to represent UKZN in the area of “Urbanisation and cities in the 21st century” on the South Africa-Sweden University Forum, which will run between 2018 and 2020.

Luthuli says she is driven by breaking boundaries and changing beliefs on how things should be in society. “I want to change the perception that aviation and planning for airport cities is a man’s terrain, and I hope to consistently challenge the generalisation that academia is for old people. I know for sure that a determined mind excels whether male or female, young or old in any space of influence, and that there’s no sector too male-dominated and barrier of entry too great for me to break through and do the best I possibly can,” she says.

Young black people should join the academy to drive the transformation and decolonisation agenda, Luthuli says. “As a young black woman, I teach and lecture at a university to address the educational injustices that are spoken about as issues of the past, when they in fact still prevail today.” — Rumana Akoob

Odwa Magabuko (29)

Odwa Magabuko (29)


“The most amazing thing about robotics is that the only limiting factor for the kids is their imagination,” says Odwa Magabuko, who moved to the Karoo two years ago to start a robotics programme with primary and high school children and their teachers.

He obtained a national diploma in Information Technology from Unisa and in 2016 joined the Square Kilometre Array South African schools programme as part of a National Research Foundation/South African Agency for Science and Technology internship. He moved from his home in Port St Johns to the Karoo, “where life was very lonely at first, but with the determination to change lives I knew I was here for a purpose, and that helped me to adjust to my new surroundings”.

Loneliness was not the only problem faced by Magabuko when he moved to the Karoo; the community he works in is riddled with substance abuse, which he finds challenging. “One of the ways in which we are trying to change the situation is to expose more kids to robotics, so that at least they have more time spent in something that impacts them positively, rather than being on the streets and being exposed to substance abuse,” he says.

Magabuko established the robotics in education schools programme as a Square Kilometre Array/South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SKA/Sarao) intern. The programme is aimed at inspiring young people’s interest in science, technology, maths and engineering through fun activities, mainly centred on building and programming robots.

In 2016, Magabuko coached a team of three learners to the national finals of the World Robotics Olympiad competition. During the same year, he coached a team that received a special award for strategy at the Cape Town leg of the First Lego League competition. Last year, another one of Magabuko’s teams made it to the national finals of the World Robot Olympiad Association competition.

“Learning robotics helps educators bridge the skills gap; it equips students with 21st century skills vital for future career success, and boosts the labour market and the skills needs of SKA/Sarao as the project grows.” — Rumana Akoob

Paballo Chauke (27)

Paballo Chauke (27)

Training and outreach co-ordinator, H3ABioNet-Pan African Bioinformatics Network for H3Africa

A self-confessed professional troublemaker, Paballo Chauke says he “grew up in conditions of squalor that made me hungry for success and opportunities to change my life and those around me”. Chauke now works in bioinformatics and is passionate about climate change and development in Africa.

Chauke obtained an undergraduate degree and honours in Environmental and Geographical Sciences and Sociology from the University of Cape Town (UCT). In 2016 he did an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the University of Oxford in the UK. Throughout his studies he assumed many leadership roles and volunteer positions.

He now works as a training and outreach co-ordinator, at H3ABioNet-Pan African Bioinformatics Network for H3Africa. He also supervises, mentors and guest lecture at the School of International Training.

He was recently employed as a co-ordinator of the education portfolio for the African Climate and Development Initiative, where he assisted in consolidating, co-ordinating and managing its portfolio of courses and training programs, internships, fellowships and scholarships.

Chauke says his mother’s fighting spirit made him who he is today. He is the youngest of three children and the first and only one to graduate in his family. “I had too many challenges navigating university, as no one in my family had the social, cultural and financial capital to navigate those exclusionary spaces. I am an unrelenting individual, hence I was able to come out at the end a conqueror, and continue to conquer.

“There is an urgent need to develop a new generation of researchers, practitioners and decision-makers who are equipped with the necessary skills and experience to tackle climate change, because ultimately it will affect the marginalised Africans more than anyone else,” says Chauke.

In his second year at UCT he was taught by a black lecturer, Professor Maano Ramutsindela, who motivated Chauke to get the first of 10 medals while studying. “Every bone in my being knows that seeing that black man hold the space and excel at his job, really is the main reason I was pushed and believed that I too matter, that I too can be and am excellent.” — Rumana Akoob

Piroshin Moodley (30)

Piroshin Moodley (30)

Child rights and education specialist, Hope is Education International

Coming from a family of teachers gave Piroshin Moodley the ability to see the importance of quality education as a “most basic human right”. This insight has lead him to work in child rights and education among some of the world’s most marginalised children.

Moodley has an undergraduate degree in anthropology from Rhodes University. He became the head of curriculum at the Unesco Global Peace Village in South Korea, where he worked on developing content on peace, values-based education and global citizenship for students of all ages. He then did a master’s in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action at the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po, France. As part of his degree he worked with Save the Children South Africa on a nationwide child protection campaign to curb violence against children in schools.

He then moved to Northern Uganda, where he works on a child rights and education project with Hope is Education International. Moodley’s organisation works to build and revitalise the education system in Northern Uganda’s village schools. The region has experienced one of the most brutal humanitarian crises worldwide, including mass human rights violations, torture, rape and the abduction of thousands of children.

Moodley’s team works with educators to improve teaching skills and curriculum development. The team is developing programmes to sensitise the community about the rights of children, prevention of early childhood marriage and child labour, the importance of keeping girl children in schools and childhood nutrition.

“By focusing on transferable skills, training and self-development we aim to create a generation of first-class educators, each of whom had the potential to transform the lives of thousands of children. While it is simplistic to say that education is a way out of poverty, it is certainly a solid first step,” he says.

Moodley said it always surprised him that South Africa allocated a higher proportion of its annual budget to basic education than most middle-income countries, and yet the South African education system is consistently ranked as one of the poorest worldwide.

“I think this speaks to a system which focuses more on rote learning and memorisation to produce measurable results, rather than a system which teaches our children how to be compassionate, actively engaged individuals who are part of a global citizenship.” — Rumana Akoob

Alude Mahali (31)

Alude Mahali (31)

Research specialist, Human Sciences Research Council

Knowing that each day she knows more than the day before is the inspirational force that drives Alude Mahali, research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in its Human and Social Development Programme.

With a doctorate in cultural studies from the University of Cape Town, Mahali aims to support and create opportunities for all people, particularly those from marginalised communities, to meaningfully participate in educational, social, political and civic life.

Through her work, she provides tangible insights into how education-related policies and programmes can be improved to better meet the needs of people, including the roles that gender, class and race play in affecting how people tackle development challenges.

Mahali’s most innovative work has been her role as co-principal investigator and project manager of a five-year study entitled Race, Education and Emancipation. The study followed a cohort of students from eight South African universities between 2013 and 2017, portraying their struggles, actions they took to change their circumstances and the institutions they attended. The data collected covered structural impediments to success including finances, institutional racism, feeling unwelcome, language problems, hunger, and issues of intersecting social and sexual identities, such as being female, gay, or having too much freedom. From the study, Mahali produced the documentary Ready or Not! Black Students’ Experiences of South African Universities.

“The stories told in the documentary provide a living, breathing understanding of what it means to go through the South African university system — accessing, starting, staying, passing, stopping, swapping, returning, finishing, graduating and working,” says Mahali.

“The usefulness of Ready or Not! will depend on the film’s potential to prompt reflection in students, learners, parents, teachers, lecturers, government departments, policymakers, university administrators and faith-based institutions about alternative ways of being and operating that yield different results. The documentary raises questions about elements of educational policy and practices, while revelling in the successes of young people who beat the odds,” says Mahali.

She pinpoints two main challenges in her area of work. The first is that the shifting landscape of higher education in South Africa is both exciting and precarious. The second is the importance of being sensitive to and respectful of the people who give researchers insight and access to their lives.

“I strive to ensure participants speak for themselves. They let us into their lives and even into their homes for extended periods. They give us access to their health status, personal information, children and families. There is tremendous responsibility on us to ensure their voices are not only heard, but never misrepresented.” — Linda Doke

Simphiwe Madlanga (32)

Simphiwe Madlanga (32)

Science communicator

Serial student and proponent of continuous learning, Simphiwe Madlanga believes a great education not only trains the mind but helps people make informed decisions, improving the odds for positive outcomes in their lives.

As a geologist working for the National Research Foundation as a science communicator at an astronomy and space geodesy research facility, Madlanga is passionate about outreach, and works with schools, youth and educator workshops for teachers needing support with natural science.

“The more I study and experience, the more I want to share my learning, and help others grow and develop,” says Madlanga.

“Leveraging my science training with creativity, I provide practical, innovative and impactful demonstrations that give teachers and learners a better understanding of scientific concepts.

Madlanga believes strongly in demystifying the complexities of science, particularly radio astronomy, and provides motivational insights and career guidance to aspiring young scientists. “I believe people struggle with science concepts only because things seem too abstract for them. I strive to personalise things, and to demonstrate the power of science by linking it to normal, everyday experiences in the world around us. Many ‘a-ha’ moments happen when one is able to highlight the relevance of science by linking it to a layperson’s direct realm of experience.”

Madlanga says his greatest challenge is maintaining a balance between adhering to the school curriculum and enhancing learners’ experiences by providing a broader approach to learning.

“Our work needs to complement that of the department of basic education, yet not be limited by prescribed textbooks. When teaching, I challenge myself to be creative, and constantly improving best practice by finding new ways to engage the public when communicating about science.

“I am where I am in life because of people who helped me along the way, supported me and my aspirations, even made decisions on my behalf when I was too young to make my own – all for my benefit. I respect the privilege of being able to proudly declare that I will always be a lifelong learner because of the solid foundation I received early in life,” says Madlanga.

“I remind myself often that ‘people are your success’, and I aspire to live that through my endeavours to help as many people as I can. Being educated, I have an even greater responsibility to those who have less.” — Linda Doke

Amanda Charles (24)

Amanda Charles (24)

Founder of Ikamva LeAfrika Education Foundation

High school science teacher Amanda Charles has a deep-rooted passion for learning and for helping others to reach beyond their barriers. While studying to become a teacher in the Eastern Cape, Charles investigated the idea of language being a barrier to learning, particularly in the sciences, where poor comprehension of English impacts on learning the subject matter.

At just 21, she founded the Ikamva LeAfrika Education Foundation (The Future of Africa), a literacy improvement programme that teaches science and academic English from grades seven to 12, creating access to science education for girls of colour, an under-represented sector in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) sector.

“Comprehension of English as an academic language is pivotal for success at post-school level, and in science. As well as science literacy, I help girls improve their comprehension of basic scientific concepts and practical components, and teach them essential practical skills required for a university laboratory setting. I believe these three elements are the most crucial for success in the sciences,” says Charles.

Making science concepts more relevant to learners’ lives is something she believes to be pivotal. She says much of the content found in textbooks does not speak to the lived realities of learners, and scientific concepts are not explained in ways that children can relate to.

“I’m in the business of making science fun and easy to understand, so I focus some of my work on helping science teachers make their content easy to comprehend by restructuring small things such as examples and experiments, using everyday items learners can find in their homes.”

Running the project has not been easy, and Charles is constantly faced with the challenges of insufficient resources and funding. But her learners keep her inspired. She says their commitment to the project and determination to improve has kept her going through the most difficult times.

“It is imperative for me that the next generation of women of colour get to see themselves being represented in science textbooks. To do that, they need access to spaces that allow for them to rewrite the content. That space is the academic space. They also need to be taught science by women of colour, as a means of breaking stereotypes surrounding women of colour and their ability to be in scientific spaces. Representation is very important, and getting young girls to see themselves in the space of science is crucial for their performance in the scientific field.” — Linda Doke

Taahira Goolam Hoosen (27)

Taahira Goolam Hoosen (27)

Lecturer in health sciences education at the University of Cape Town

Beyond the textbook: teaching and empowering, one person at a time. This is the motto health sciences lecturer Taahira Goolam Hoosen lives and works by, whose calling merges teaching and learning with community development to create positive implications for society.

With degrees in human genetics, biology and haematology, it was during her time between honours and master’s that Goolam Hoosen discovered her true academic love was development — assisting students and staff to acquire the appropriate academic discourse required in the health sciences for their success and degree completion.

“Acquiring academic literacy is not always formally taught at university. My work explores disciplinary ways to do so, within a decolonised context in the health sciences,” she explains.

“My approach to teaching students evokes a sense of self-agency within a social justice framework. It is about equipping students with the knowledge and writing practices that can enable their success, as they are an enforcer of that success and I am merely the mediator.”

Goolam Hoosen maintains that the key to success is about being ever curious and challenging, and asking the “why” that advocates higher order thinking and learning.

Her work does not end in the classroom. She is also the chief executive of The Humanitarians, a nonprofit organisation which aims to create a sustainable society through health, education, sports, and research.
“What I love about our innovative work at The Humanitarians is that we are not about working in isolation but rather in collaboration with others towards the same goal. Aligned with my teaching philosophy and passion, our organisation focuses on empowerment which is aimed towards eradicating poverty rather than fuelling it.”
In 2017, the organisation distributed more than 20 000 books to children in underprivileged settings and schools across Cape Town as part of a drive to increase youth literacy levels.

Goolam Hoosen grapples with not being able to do more or help more people, but she has realised that assisting one person can have a ripple effect.

“I’m blessed to have people in my life who share my values and vision. While we have access to higher education, it is the academic support and development which is key to supporting our students towards success and ultimately towards the completion of their studies. The need is great, and that is why collaboration is so vital to our making a difference.” — Linda Doke