Young in­no­va­tor im­presses Richard Bran­son

CityPress - - News - – Biénne Huis­man

A young man from Um­lazi, south­west of Dur­ban, has come up with a rev­o­lu­tion­ary idea to at­tend to South Africa’s ed­u­ca­tion cri­sis and its fail­ure to pro­duce pupils who are com­pe­tent in maths and science.

Zakheni Ngubo’s in­no­va­tive­ness has been recog­nised by renowned in­ter­na­tional en­tre­pre­neur Richard Bran­son. Ngubo re­cently re­turned home af­ter spend­ing time with the bil­lion­aire at Bran­son’s pri­vate Necker Is­land.

In 2002, Ngubo’s high school maths teacher fell ill and was not re­placed by the school. At the time, Ngubo was in Grade 11 and, un­til the end of his ma­tric year, he and his class­mates were with­out a maths teacher. De­spite ob­tain­ing dis­tinc­tions in other sub­jects, his maths marks were not that good and, as a re­sult, he was not able to get into uni­ver­sity.

The fol­low­ing year, he re­peated maths and was ac­cepted into the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town for a BCom in mar­ket­ing and sup­ply chain man­age­ment.

His strug­gle – and that of many other pupils around South Africa – led him to cre­ate Sya­funda, a plat­form that pro­vides learn­ing so­lu­tions through mo­bile tech­nol­ogy.

Through the plat­form, the best maths and science teach­ers are iden­ti­fied and asked to record their lessons, which can be down­loaded by stu­dents for free.

“So we had au­di­tions around KwaZulu-Natal to find the best teach­ers in the prov­ince. Even­tu­ally, we found two for maths and two for science. We got the four of them to teach the en­tire grade 11 to 12 cur­ricu­lums on video, and stu­dents can down­load it for free. The lessons are also avail­able in MP3, and soon we will have work­books in PDF for­mat as well,” Ngubo told City Press.

All of the con­tent is avail­able on a Wi-Fi net­work, which has a con­nec­tiv­ity range of 100m. Stu­dents can down­load the con­tent while at school, and even other mem­bers from the com­mu­nity can ac­cess the ma­te­rial when they are in range.

The ser­vice is free and is a so­phis­ti­cated mobi site, which means it is sup­ported by a num­ber of low-cost phones.

The Wi-Fi net­work has now been used in 100 schools in KwaZulu-Natal. Ngubo says they hope to in­crease the schools ben­e­fit­ing from the Wi-Fi net­work to 1 200 by this time next year.

Ngubo’s in­volve­ment in the Bran­son Cen­tre of En­trepreneur­ship in Jo­han­nes­burg af­forded him the op­por­tu­nity to pitch his idea to Bran­son at his is­land. His week on the is­land was a net­work­ing op­por­tu­nity for him and other Bran­son Cen­tre grad­u­ates from around the world, which also gave them a chance to be men­tored and ad­vised by other well­known en­trepreneurs.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity. It was amaz­ing to have the chance to have break­fast, lunch and supper with Bran­son for a week and to en­gage with him and some other en­trepreneurs I have ad­mired for a long time,” Ngubo said.


Zakheni Ngubo and Richard Bran­son

Necker Is­land is English busi­ness­man and in­vestor Richard Bran­son’s pri­vate par­adise

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