Guest post by Emily Pather, 2017 fellow of South Africa
Editor’s note: The 2017 fellows of South Africa were one of five country cohorts to receive a $3,000 seed grant to support the implementation of their action plan that was developed during the 2017 TechWomen program. In addition to mentorship and cultural activities, TechWomen participants collaboratively work to develop an action plan to address a socioeconomic issue in their community alongside Impact Coaches.
“Be the person you needed when you were younger.”
Growing up in South Africa can be amazing: we have a rich cultural heritage, 11 official languages, beautiful landscapes, amazing role models to look up to and creative minds working to make our nation better. Growing up here can also be a challenge; depending on where and when you were born, the resources available to you can be very limited.
When the 2017 TechWomen team from South Africa met, it was sisterhood at first sight. What a joy to meet like-minded women, skilled in their fields and with hearts, minds and hands ready to make a difference. As we went through the various TechWomen workshops and seminars, it became quite clear where we could make a difference: maths! Our team recognized the foundational characteristics of maths and how learning it and loving it from a young age opens up the world of STEM to so many. So the question arose: “Who/what did we need when we were younger?” Drawing on our different backgrounds and experiences, we found that we needed somebody to show us that Maths is Fun, Maths is Essential and Maths is Everywhere!
Our name KasiMaths references where we would like to make a difference: in the lives of those who might not otherwise have the opportunity. “Kasi” refers to what are also known as township areas that house historically socially and economically disadvantaged people. Our vision is to help students from underprivileged communities develop mathematical skills, gain confidence in their mathematical abilities and increase their enjoyment of mathematics. In the long term, we want to help students to pass mathematics at matric [high school] level and take up STEM courses at tertiary [college] level.
How are we doing it?
At the heart of KasiMaths is a holistic, community-based approach crafted to develop both the skill of logical reasoning and the joy found in thinking mathematically. KasiMaths has a low-cost delivery model and is easily replicable and scalable because it leverages community partnerships to ensure the sustainability and impact of the hub.
Our model includes an easily accessible location with local volunteers and the use of robotics, chemistry, 3D modeling and online tutorials to make classroom maths practical and understandable. Our first hub launched in partnership with the US Embassy in South Africa and the Rosa Park Library in Soweto on June 18, 2018. We have 16 eager students and five passionate volunteers.
Our team of directors includes 2017 fellows Chiedza Mnguni, Danai Nhando, Emily Pather, Fanelwa Ajayi and Ridhwana Khan. Together, we will continue to work hard to build partnerships and a scalable model that we will implement all around our beloved country.