Professor Phakeng is known for her research on language practices in mathematics education, and has published more than 80 papers. During the pandemic, she led the University of Cape Town to open a new online high school and tapped the power of social media to teach when classrooms were shuttered.
She conducted 70 free online sessions for post-grads and young academics live on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, reaching more than 2 million people. On the first Friday of December each year, she runs the #MakeEducationFashionable campaign to inspire people to pursue higher education.
Professor Phakeng was making headlines well before Oprah’s shoutout. In addition to numerous plaudits and accolades, Phakeng is a member of the board of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and currently chairs the Human Resource Development Council Standing Committee on Mathematics and Science Education. This year she became the first African to be elected chair of the International Alliance of Research Universities.
“It is the greatest honor to be recognised for my life’s passion,” Professor Phakeng says. “Quality education is the key to Africa’s future and I’m so grateful to HP, Intel, and Microsoft for this award that I hope will inspire others across our continent to further the cause of African education.”