Distinguished Teachers’ Award for ‘Maths activist’
DR JUDY Dlamini’s first degree was in medicine. Now 34 years down the line, she recently walked on to the same UKZN stage to receive an Honorary Doctorate in Economics in recognition of her achievements as one of South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long. My honorary doctorate, for which I’m truly grateful, is in a different field because after practising medicine for 13 years, I ventured out into business. I’ve now been in business longer than I have been a clinician,” mused Dlamini.
Being back at UKZN, especially on the Westville campus, was nostalgic for Dlamini because she was born in the area and grew up during the apartheid era with her mom, a primary school teacher, and her father, an entrepreneur, always emphasising the value of education.
“As a little girl I walked the streets of Westville to catch a bus to school or to the grocery store. More importantly, I remember going to the then University of Durban-Westville (UDW) with my half-sister, uSis’ Phumzile. When my sister heard that I had applied to Medical School, she advised me to also apply to Durban-Westville to do Physiotherapy,” said Dlamini.
“Although she didn’t say it outright, I don’t think she believed I would be accepted at Medical School, so she wanted me to have a plan B. I went with her out of politeness because that was not my dream. In those days you had to apply for ministerial consent to study at a university that was classified for a race group different to your own.
“Education is a liberator – the education of one person has the power to change outcomes in a village. Educated people who are successful make success accessible in unlikely neighbourhoods.”
With education as her motivation, Dlamini , who also holds an MBA and a PhD in Business Leadership, continues to chart her own path, which includes various business ventures in fields such as medicine, retail and property, including the Mbekani Group that she founded 22 years ago.
Serving on many boards and embodying the spirit of philanthropy through community outreach initiatives, Dlamini is not willing to let the knowledge she has acquired be solely for her benefit. She has shared it in her book: Equal But Different: Women Leaders’ Life Stories – Overcoming Race, Gender and Social Class.
The work relates positive stories of contributions made by ordinary African folk to foster a positive mindset in youngsters.
She has this advice for students who aim to follow in her footsteps. “Entrepreneurship is about hard work and taking calculated risks. You prepare a business plan, but the market is almost always different to what you have on paper, so it’s important to understand what the market dictates and respond accordingly. Failure is part of the journey, don’t allow it to define you.
“There’s always an element of luck, but you have no control over that. It’s also important to understand that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. I drop some balls along the way. However, I have a very good support system - the people I work with and my family make it possible for me to try a few things and fail at some but persist. My strength is resilience and a good support system.” ‘TEACHING is a calling. For me, it’s my passion. Receiving the Distinguished Teachers’ Award confirms that I am on the right track with my teaching methods and that UKZN appreciates and values my contribution to teaching and learning.”
These are the words of Dr Msizi Mkhize, a lecturer in Accounting at UKZN’s School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, who holds Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Commerce degrees.
Mkhize is the author of the Accounting study guide Grade 12 Accounting: Mathematical Calculations Made Simple, who has developed a maths presentation that encourages learners to talk maths, love maths and see it as an interesting subject.
“Our maths teacher used to teach one specific method of solving problems, but I used my spare time to discover alternative methods,” said Mkhize.
“The class would use my methods because they were simple, straightforward and explained solutions in a step-by-step process. I studied ahead, so whenever the teacher introduced a topic, I already knew it,” he said.
In high school, Mkhize used his spare time to assist fellow learners who struggled with the subject. “My peers were continuously praising my teaching skills. I realised I had teaching talent, so after matric, I joined Indumiso College of Education, now (DUT Indumiso campus), where I was professionally trained to be a mathematics and accounting teacher.”
Mkhize started his teaching career in 1991 at Menzi High School in Umlazi, where he introduced commercial subjects and helped learners get distinctions and a 100% pass rate in Grade 12 accounting every year.
“I came up with a turnaround strategy for the school and it is now one of the best high schools in the country.”
In his lectures, Mkhize uses what he calls the five Cs: curiosity, concentration, communication, creativity and choice.
“I want my students to have the confidence to tackle unfamiliar mathematical problems in accounting creatively and have fun doing it.”