Mathematical Mamokgethi Phakeng: A Life Dedicated to Africa’s Educational Promotion

By Duchess Magazine

Mamokgethi’s roots are deeply embedded in the pursuit of knowledge. Raised by parents who valued education, her mother’s determination to complete her teaching certification after having three children set the stage for Mamokgethi’s own educational journey. Her father, a pioneer as one of the first black radio announcers at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, instilled a love for communication and knowledge dissemination.

Born on November 1, 1966, in Eastwood, Pretoria, South Africa, Mamokgethi has carved an illustrious path in mathematics education, earning accolades not just for her groundbreaking research but also for her dedication to transforming lives through education.

Her educational odyssey began in 1972 at Ikageleng Primary in Marapyane village, eventually leading her through various institutions, including the University of North-West, where she earned her Bachelor of Education in mathematics education. She continued her academic ascent, obtaining a Master of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand and etching her name in history in 2002 as the first black female South African to achieve a Ph.D. in mathematics education.

Mamokgethi Phakeng’s career is punctuated with milestones and recognition. Her dedication to promoting education in Africa earned her the prestigious Africa Education Medal in September 2022. This award particularly lauded her research on language practices in multilingual mathematics classrooms, showcasing her commitment to inclusivity in education.

Her journey is adorned with honors, underscoring her impact on education and research:

– Doctor of Science, honoris causa, University of Bristol: Recognizing her academic prowess and contributions.

– The Order of the Baobab (Silver): Awarded by former President Jacob Zuma for her outstanding research work in science on the international stage.

– CEO Magazine award: Acknowledged as the most influential woman in education and training in South Africa (August 2013).

– NSTF award: Recognized as the most outstanding Senior Black Female Researcher for innovative research on teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms.

– Golden Key International Society Honorary life membership: Highlighting her exceptional contributions.

Mamokgethi’s leadership roles reflect her commitment to shaping the future of education:

– Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (2018 – 2023):  A tenure marked by transformative initiatives and a dedication to sustainable education.

– Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (2016): A precursor to her groundbreaking role as Vice-Chancellor.

– Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation at the University of South Africa: Demonstrating her prowess in steering research initiatives.

– Executive Dean of College of Science Engineering and Technology of University of South Africa: A position where she left an indelible mark.

Beyond the accolades and leadership roles, Mamokgethi Phakeng’s personal life adds depth to her narrative. Her 19-year marriage to Richard Setati and subsequent marriage to Madimetja Lucky Phakeng, head of the Takeover Regulation Panel, reveal facets of her character— resilience, adaptability, and a commitment to personal growth.

Mamokgethi’s commitment extends beyond academia. As the founder of the Adopt-a-learner Foundation, she champions the cause of providing financial and educational support to students from township and rural areas, fostering a legacy of empowerment.

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