In a world where education is more important than ever, we need inspiring leaders who can push the boundaries and help us achieve new heights. And when it comes to education in South Africa, there is no one more incredible than Prof Kgethi Phakeng. As a renowned mathematician, educator, and leader, Prof Phakeng has made a significant impact on the field of education both in South Africa and around the world. Prof Phakeng is full professor and Vice-Principal for Research and Innovation at the University of South Africa. She has published over 80 research papers and four edited volumes, which have so far been cited more than 1,174 times. She is a National Research Foundation-rated scientist, which indicates that she has considerable international recognition.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Prof Phakeng’s incredible accomplishments and explore why she is truly deserving of celebration.
A Passion for Mathematics and Education
As a young African girl, Prof Phakeng discovered her love for mathematics at an early age. She was inspired by her mother, a teacher, who encouraged her to pursue her passions and follow her dreams. Prof Phakeng went on to study mathematics and later completed her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Throughout her academic career, Prof Phakeng has remained passionate about mathematics and education, and has dedicated her life to inspiring the next generation of learners.
Innovative Research in Mathematics Education
As a leading mathematician, Prof Phakeng has made groundbreaking contributions to the field of mathematics education. Her research has focused on developing innovative teaching methods and tools to help students better understand and engage with mathematics.
One of her most significant contributions has been her work on the use of technology in mathematics education. Through her research, Prof Phakeng has demonstrated the effectiveness of using technology to enhance learning and help students master mathematical concepts.
Empowering Students Through Teaching
Prof Phakeng’s commitment to empowering students extends beyond her research. As an educator, she has worked tirelessly to create a learning environment that is inclusive, supportive, and empowering.
Through her teaching, Prof Phakeng has inspired countless students to pursue their passions and achieve their goals. Her approach emphasises collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving, helping students develop the skills they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.
Leadership in Education: Breaking Barriers and Making Change
In addition to her work as an educator and researcher, Prof Phakeng has also made significant contributions to the field of education through her leadership. She has served as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town since 2018, becoming the first black woman to hold this position in the institution’s history. She has been invited to deliver over 30 keynote plenary talks at international conferences, and as visiting professor at universities around the world (in Australia, Beirut, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, Finland, India, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Senegal, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States of America).
She has won several awards for her research and community work, including the 2011 National Science and Technology Forum award for being the most outstanding Senior Female Researcher over the last five to 10 years and in recognition of her innovative, quality research on teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms. In August 2014, CEO magazine named Prof Phakeng as the Most Influential Woman in Academia in Africa.
Under her leadership, the University of Cape Town has made significant strides in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education. Prof Phakeng has been a champion of transformation and has worked tirelessly to break down barriers and create opportunities for students from all backgrounds.