Candice Potgieter

Candice Potgieter is dedicated to improving the quality of education in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). To make this happen she plays many roles. She is chief executive officer of the KZN Science Centre, the second-largest science centre in the country, and a member of the committee that advises the KZN MEC of education on career guidance in schools. She also started one of the first early childhood development centres in the province, in which more than 90 crèches have become school-ready, and has created the cheapest science resource kit in the country, now used in 100 schools. With a BSc Honours degree in Applied Physics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, she first discovered her passion for empowering others through education while teaching science to educators in disadvantaged areas. Under her guidance the number of visitors to the science centre, a non-profit organisation that assists in educational development in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, has grown from 40 000 a year to more than 100 000. Potgieter believes in former president Nelson Mandela’s statement that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Giving children in rural communities the chance to experience hands-on science not only gets them interested in the subject but teaches them the valuable lesson that with hard work anything is possible. Potgieter puts her executive management courses from the University of Miami and the Australian National University to good use, ensuring her projects have sufficient funding to fulfil their mandate of inculcating in learners the importance of education. Potgieter, a fan of Jeremy Clarkson, is in top gear herself, racing her way to the top. But her career isn’t all that is on the fast track. With more than 70% of all visitors to the Science Centre sponsored and from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, she is “creating the future  generation of scientists”. — Caroline Cowan