South African minister joins prestigious panel

Minister Naledi Pandor has been chosen
as jury member for the Wise Prize.
(Image: BCNN5)

Universities stand a chance to scoop the
Wise Prize. Pandor played a commendable
role in the reconstruction of University
of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus.
(Image: Bongani Nkosi)

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Bongani Nkosi

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister of science and technology, has been chosen as one of five prominent international figures to serve as adjudicators for a major prize for education – the most recently introduced accolade of its kind in the world.

The jury will select an individual or group that has made an outstanding contribution to education in the world. The winner will receive the Wise Prize for Education, an international award spearheaded by the Qatar Foundation. It comes with US$500 000 (R3.4-million) prize money and a gold medal.

The Wise Prize was announced by the foundation’s chairperson Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser at the end of the second World Innovation Summit for Education (Wise) in Doha, Qatar, in December 2010.

Other jury members are director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University Prof Jeffrey D Sachs, chairperson of Wise Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, chairperson of the Maulana Azad Educational Trust in India and former award-winning journalist Fatma Rafiq Zakaria and librarian of Congress in the US Dr James H Billington.

The 58-year-old Pandor served as minister of education in South Africa between 2004 and 2009. She was transferred to head the Department of Science and Technology after the 2009 national elections.

A daughter of renowned freedom fighter the late Joe Mathews, Pandor received most of her education while in exile. She matriculated in Botswana, and went on to acquire her BA degree from the University of Botswana and Swaziland, now the University of Botswana.

She obtained her MA in education from the University of London and another in linguistics from the University of Stellenbosch.

Pandor herself took part in the fight against apartheid and she’s been a member of parliament since 1994, representing the ruling African National Congress. She was chairperson of the all-important National Council of Provinces from 1999 to 2004.

In 2002 she became the first woman to be appointed chancellor of Cape Technikon, which merged with Peninsula Technikon to form the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The Durban-born Pandor is also an erstwhile senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town.

Rich experience and diverse panel

Pandor said her passion for education was a driving force in her decision to join the jury. “I accepted the invitation to serve on this jury as I am passionate about education and I believe the Qatar Foundation is doing excellent work in contributing to the global endeavour of quality education for all.

“Furthermore, the opportunity to work alongside an eminent panel of jury members was irresistible,” she said in a statement.

Dr Al-Thani said the five adjudicators were chosen due to their expertise in education.

“I am pleased to welcome this group of eminent people to form the Wise Prize for Education jury. They have been selected because of their international vision, professional achievements and expertise,” he said in a media statement.

“I believe their rich experience and diverse competencies will enable us to identify a laureate of the highest calibre, and the Wise Prize for Education will become the world standard for achievement in this field.”

Wise nominations invited

Besides outstanding individuals, the type of groups that could walk away with the prize includes governments, universities, schools, NGOs, teachers’ organisations, media houses and private corporations.

They have until the end of April 2011 to be nominated. The panel will then begin scrutinising the entries and choose the outstanding candidate in July.

The prize will be awarded at the third Wise summit in Doha in November. The annual summit involves 1 000 world leaders meeting to discuss ways to improve education across the world.