Mamokgethi Phakeng
Mamokgethi Phakeng
DUniv. 2022

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng is vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town. Previously, she served as vice principal for research and innovation at the University of South Africa (Unisa) for five years, after serving three years as executive dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Unisa.

Phakeng’s  academic career began in 1996 at the University of the Witwatersrand, as a research assistant. She left in December 2007 as an associate professor of mathematics education  and founding director of the award-winning Marang Centre for Mathematics and Science Education, becoming  executive dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Unisa in January 2008. After a very successful tenure as dean, she became vice principal with a newly-established research and innovation portfolio in 2011. When her five-year term ended in 2016, she joined UCT.

Kgethi, as she is popularly known, received her first degree, a major in pure mathematics, at the University of Bophuthatswana (now North-West University) in Mafikeng in 1987. She completed all her postgraduate studies, culminating in a PhD in mathematics education in 2002, at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she also served five years as the first woman president of convocation (2011 to 2016).

Phakeng  is a highly regarded B1 National Research Foundation-rated scientist, with over 60 research papers and five edited volumes published. She has been invited to deliver over 40 keynote or plenary talks at international conferences, and has been a visiting professor at many universities around the world.

Phakeng has won numerous awards for her research and community work, including an Hon DSc (Bristol) in 2019 and the Order of the Baobab (Silver) (conferred on her by the president of South Africa) in 2016. In 2014, CEO Magazine named her the most influential woman academic in Africa, and in 2016, the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa awarded her its prestigious Businesswoman of the Year Award in the education category.

Phakeng’s  commitment to academia and research extends beyond personal advancement. She was elected a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2007, an honorary member of the Golden Key International Honour Society in 2009, and an honorary life member of the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa (AMESA) in 2009. In 2008, she was named to co-chair a study commissioned by the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction titled “Mathematics and language diversity,” which was published as an edited volume, Mathematics Education and Language Diversity, in 2016.

Phakeng is a member of the board of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) and currently chairs the Human Resource Development Council Standing Committee on Mathematics and Science Education. She served as a member of the board of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and chaired its Research Development and Innovation Committee from 2015 until 2017.

Phakeng led the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa (AMESA) as its first woman national president from 2002 to 2006. She also served as founding chairperson of the board of the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) from 2004 to 2006, and as secretary and member of the executive committee of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME) from 2003 to 2007.