Kgadi Mathabathe

Science Education Lecturer, Tuks

After Kgadi Mathabathe completed grade 12 in an under-resourced high school in Hammanskraal, a rural area north of Pretoria, she had to attend college for an additional year to upgrade her maths and science.

Her experiences as a science learner taught her that if students who hailed from disadvantaged backgrounds could access quality primary and secondary education, it would be easier for them to access tertiary education.

She knew then that she wanted to become a science teacher who could make an abstract learning area accessible to learners, but never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she would be afforded the opportunity to train pre- and in-service teachers so early on in her career, which is what she does in her role as a lecturer in science education at the University of Pretoria.

Mathabathe, who is just 32, also publishes articles on how to improve science education in South Africa and supervises postgraduate research in education.

Last year she won a Canon Collins Ros Moger/Terry Furlong Scholarship to do a doctorate in science education.

She is focusing on metacognitive activity among science students with the aim of informing the teaching and learning of chemistry in South Africa. She is regularly invited to motivate young people by organisations such as the Rural Education Access Programme, and with financial independence has come the added opportunity to financially assist other young people with their studies.

Mathabathe once worked as a science teacher at a school back in Hammanskraal. During her time there she initiated a science club that offered free maths and science tuition to disadvantaged learners. The project is on hold until she completes her doctorate, but she continues to remain in touch with the youth of her community through a church that she pastors with her husband.

“I believe in ploughing back and being the change I wish to see. My life bears testimony to the fact that one does not have to come from a privileged background to succeed in life, but that through education anyone, irrespective of colour or background, can succeed in life,” she says.

“I have been fortunate to see the young people I have mentored back home and at university go on to achieve their dreams.  That brings joy to my heart and motivates me even more.” — Fatima Asmal