By staff writer
“It is the greatest honour to be recognised for my life’s passion. Quality education is the key to Africa’s future, and I’m so grateful to HP, Intel and Microsoft for this award that I hope will inspire others across our continent to further the cause of African education.”
So said the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng has recently been named the winner of the inaugural Africa Education Medal, launched this year by T4 Education and HP in collaboration with Intel and Microsoft.
Professor Phakeng was chosen from among 10 finalists from across the continent, including the former president of Tanzania, HE Jakaya Kikwete. The medal was founded with an aim of recognising the work of changemakers who are transforming African education.
According to UNESCO, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion in the world with over one-fifth of children between the ages of six and 11 out of school, girls particularly disadvantaged. However, tireless international efforts have seen Africa make great strides in boosting enrolment in the decades leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The institution said: “By celebrating the stories of those working every day to expand upon these vital gains, the Africa Education Medal aims to inspire others to follow in their footsteps and bring lasting change in African education.”
In congratulating Phakeng, the vice-president and managing director at HP Africa, Brad Pulford, said: “Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng’s drive and leadership in transforming education across Africa and beyond stand as a shining example to others all over the continent.
“We at HP can only echo her passion for empowering learners. From a business community perspective, we have a bold goal to enable better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025. Only by joining forces [with] NGOs, government, educators and businesses can we make bold moves towards improving the education environment. A quality education empowers not just individuals, but entire communities. It will skill the next generation to fulfil their full potential in a world being transformed by technology.”
Other business moguls including Oprah Winfrey have congratulated Prof Phakeng on her achievement. Oprah said: “I don’t know anyone who deserves it more, because I’ve witnessed first-hand through your support of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa how your vision and your passion and your commitment has made such a difference in the lives of so many students.
“I honour the vital work that you do in education and I celebrate you as a forward-thinking, visionary leader for such a time as this. Congratulations, and blessings on your life.”
Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde said: “The Africa Education Medal recognises the importance of education in transforming a country, helping to lift people out of poverty and inequality. This is what Professor Phakeng stands for: helping those less fortunate to rise above their circumstances and achieve their goals.”
Dr Mamphela Ramphele, former UCT vice-chancellor said: “Congratulations to my sister Mamokgethi Phakeng. She is a dedicated visionary leader in education. As leader of UCT, she has led courageously in a difficult national context. May she grow from strength to strength and model what transformative feminine leadership looks like.”
Adrian Gore, founder and CEO of the Discovery Group stated: “Professor Phakeng is a remarkable individual and incredibly deserving of this recognition, as she exemplifies the principles underpinning the Africa Education Medal: she is an inspirational advocate for quality education on the continent, she has led some of our top tertiary institutions with passion and skill, and she remains committed to uplifting of our country’s young people through both her personal and professional efforts.”