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AIMS 2014 Graduates' Majestic Quest

AIMS Graduates aim to use math to make a difference in Africa

“If we want to forge a just and prosperous society, we need to see real social and economic development – and that development will be predicated on science and mathematics.”

Those were the words of guest speaker – and former South African President – Kgalema Motlanthe, speaking at an African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) graduation ceremony at Muizenberg Pavilion on Wednesday 25 June 2014, where 49 students from 20 African countries received their Masters Degrees in Mathematics.

AIMS was formed as a partnership between six universities: in South Africa, the University of the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Stellenbosch; and from further afield, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University of Paris-Suid. AIMS-South Africa is part of a pan-African network of centres of excellence for postgraduate education, research and outreach in the mathematical sciences, dedicated to finding the next Einstein in Africa.

Motlanthe praised AIMS for its many partnerships, for its commitment to development, and for its efforts at providing an education that allowed graduates to change Africa for the better. “Africa's greatest resource is its people,” he said, “and we have to invest in those people. And there can be no greater or more worthy investment than in education, which empowers young people to make a difference.”

AIMS Director, Prof Barry Green, agreed that young people are needed to take the continent forward. “The flame for mathematics has to be ignited in the young, and this is what we do at AIMS,” he remarked. “We instill passion and help develop skills - building a new future by enabling youth.”  

The students themselves had a lot to say about their experiences at AIMS, expressing their appreciation for the quality of their education, the availability of tutors, the encouragement they received from lecturers and peers, and especially the exposure to people from a variety of cultures.

“When I weigh up my time at AIMS, I am most grateful for having learned that the world is smaller than it seems,” said UWC graduate, Rosemary Akinyi Aogo, who hails from Kenya. “With all our variety of religions and cultures, we all share similar dreams – to make Africa great. So let us put all the skills we have acquired into transforming the world. Let us go out there and achieve our dreams.”

The graduation ceremony was officiated by Professor Brian O'Connell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, along with Professor Eugene Cloete, Stellenbosch University's Vice-Rector: Research and Innovation, and Professor Danie Visser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, at the University of Cape Town.

Prof O'Connell told the students they should be proud of their achievements, and discussed how much those achievements might mean to Africa. “The challenges we are now facing are unprecedented – challenges with the economy, with climate change, with poverty, with disease. In Africa, few, if any of our nations, will achieve their 2015 Millennium Development Goals. But we're not without hope – and you are that hope.”

“We must commit to harnessing our resources, intellectual and otherwise, because there is no other way to succeed. We must embrace humanity's majestic quest – to gain and share knowledge to make a better world. This is our challenge and our responsibility,” he concluded. “I urge you all to accept your status as knowledge makers, to help us all remain on the path to fulfill that quest.”