R3m boost for African maths

13 September 2006

South Africa’s Department of Education is to donate R3-million to a mathematics institute aimed at recruiting African students for training in research and teaching careers.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is a partnership of three Universities in the Western Cape – the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University and University of the Western Cape – and three European Universities: Cambridge, Oxford and Paris-Sud-XI.

“We believe that where programmes are highly regarded, and students demonstrate commitment and potential, ways must be found to support them,” Education Minister Naledi Pandor said in Cape Town on Wednesday.

International recognition
AIMS was established in 2003 and has since gained international recognition as a centre of excellence in preparing students for research and teaching careers in the quantitative sciences.

The institute recruits students from around Africa for an intensive nine-month course offered by renowned international lecturers, improving their research skills through exposure to cutting-edge topics.

The graduates proceed to advanced programmes in a range of scientific fields and careers in education, industry and government – “forming a powerful network working together for African development,” Pandor artment said.

Successful students
Of the 200 applications received for the September 2006 intake, 50 students were accepted, of whom 15 were women, from 20 African countries. Many of the students are already engaged in teaching and would like to continue in educational careers.

One of AIMS’ graduates is Tendai Mugwagwa, a young Zimbabwean from Bindura, both of whose parents were primary school teachers.

Mugwagwa entered AIMS in 2003, completed her Masters in 2005 under the supervision of a UCT academic, and was then accepted for a PhD programme in the Netherlands.

Daphne Singo, a South African student from Limpopo, was accepted into the institute in 2006. Both of her parents were unemployed.

She is now preparing an essay to form the basis of a Masters in nuclear physics, after which she will have the opportunity to proceed to a research programme on the Pebble Bed Reactor.

Alumni ‘remarkable’
Professor Neil Turok, chair of the council of Aims, said its alumni record was remarkable. “I know of no other comparable institution with this sort of success rate,” he said.

“To put it into context, when AIMS opened, Sudan’s top university had just 14 PhDs on their science faculty, teaching nearly 20 000 students. Aims hopes to double that number within six or seven years.”

Source: BauNews

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