Our team is comprised of smart and dedicated people who believe in our long-term vision, that it is indeed possible for all South African kids to learn to read for meaning and calculate with confidence by age 10 by 2030. These are the people we trust to lead our programs, develop our materials, and advocate for their widespread uptake by government.
Chair of the Board
Sizwe Mabizela is the Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University. Prior to assuming this position in 2014, he was the Deputy Vice- Chancellor: Academic & Student Affairs at Rhodes University. Sizwe Mabizela earned his doctorate in Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University in 1991. He has authored and co- authored several research papers in his field of interest, and these have been published in international journals. He has also presented several keynote/invited addresses at national and international conferences.
Between 1992 and 2003, Mabizela was an academic in the Department of Pure & Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town. He rose through the academic ranks to the level of Associate Professor and Deputy Head of Department. In 2004 he was offered and accepted the headship of, and full professorship in, the Department of Mathematics (Pure & Applied) at Rhodes University. For some years, Mabizela was a member of the South African Mathematics Olympiad Committee. In July 2014, he Chaired the 55th International Mathematics Olympiad, held at the University of Cape Town, the first time this international mathematics competition had ever been held under the African sky.
Mabizela has also served as a member and Chairperson of the Umalusi Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education & Training.
Maya Makanjee has held numerous executive roles in South African companies and currently sits on the boards of Tiger Brands, Mpact, AIG, Truworths International, NOSA, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Maya Makanjee obtained a Master’s degree in Business Leadership (MBL) degree through the University of South Africa, graduating cum laude, and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. After her schooling, she spent four years at the University of Mumbai, where she obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance. She has also completed the Program for Executive Development at the IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Ms Makanjee has held executive director positions in financial services, human resources, marketing communications, corporate affairs, strategy and business re-engineering. Her executive roles have included that of Chief Officer, Corporate Affairs at Vodacom; CEO of FinMark Trust; Corporate Affairs Director for Africa and Asia at SABMiller; Communications, Public Affairs and Human Resources Director for Southern and Eastern Africa at Nestle; and Deputy Group Executive for Strategic Planning at Telkom, amongst others.
Dr Benjamin Piper is the Director of the Global Education Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Based in the foundation’s Ethiopia office, Benjamin Piper supports grantees that work to improve foundational literacy and numeracy in low- and middle-income countries.
Before joining the foundation, Benjamin was the senior director for Africa education for RTI International, where he provided support to large-scale education projects across sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Earlier, he was the chief of party for the Kenyan national literacy program Tusome, a set of randomized controlled trials in Kenya called PRIMR, and Kenya’s National Tablets Programme. He was the principal investigator for Learning at Scale, a multi-country study of highly effective large-scale education programs and for an external evaluation of programs aimed at increasing playful pedagogy at large scale funded by the Lego Foundation. He was also the principal investigator for Science of Teaching, an effort funded by the Gates Foundation to increase knowledge about the technical details of how to improve pedagogy at large scale.
Benjamin has a doctorate in international education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and master’s degrees in international education policy and school leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Furman University, respectively. He has lived in East Africa since 2007 and currently resides in Addis Ababa.
Zimkhitha Peter is the Chief Executive Officer at Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. Her passion is to nurture entrepreneurial potential in young people and seeks to make a contribution to the alleviation of poverty and the improvement of socio-economic factors in the country.
Zimkhitha holds a Bcom Honours in Industrial Psychology (UNISA) and a Leadership Development qualification from Harvard Business School. Her desire is to see the Foundation as the centre of excellence in the development of entrepreneurial capabilities.
Nic Spaull was the Founder of Funda Wande and the CEO of the organisation from 2017-2021. He is an Associate Professor in the Economics Department at Stellenbosch University and part of the Research on Socioeconomic Policy (RESEP) group in the Department. Nic’s research centres on education policy in South Africa with a focus on inequality and early grade literacy and numeracy. In 2021 he was awarded the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) P-Rating, the highest rating possible for researchers under 35 and is also the only economist in the country currently with a P-rating, as well as the Royal Society's Meiring Naude Medal. During the COVID-19 pandemic Nic initiated the National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), a nationwide consortium of more than 30 researchers from six universities, to measure the impact of COVID-19 in South Africa which has generated over 60 academic working papers in less than a year and has been cited by the President in parliament.
Nic has held visiting fellowships at Stanford University in the US and the OECD in Paris and is currently a non-resident fellow at RISE as well as the Centre for Global Development (CGD). Nic recently (2019) co-edited “South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality” with Jonathan Jansen and published by Springer and is currently co-editing a 3-volume series on reading and mathematics to be published by Oxford University Press in 2022. Nic comments regularly in the media and advises numerous high-level policymakers and philanthropists in South Africa and abroad. His research and commentary are available on his website nicspaull.com
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