Social entrepreneur Thina Maqubela on her academic journey

Social entrepreneur Thina Maqubela (27) has used her passion for education and her love for entrepreneurship to solve societal problems

She says her journey as a social entrepreneur has been fulfilling since founding Maqub’s Academy of Excellence.

A private hostel for girl learners who attend schools in Grahamstown, she describes it as a “home away from home” that prides itself on a holistic programme that centres on academic excellence.

“We differentiate ourselves from traditional hostels by not only offering accommodation to learners, but also academic support, career guidance, educational trips, and psychological support – all aimed at promoting academic excellence,” she says.

Maqubela, who hails from Eastern Cape, says the academy’s goal is to nurture well-rounded learners who are able to make wise career decisions that are centred around collaborating their careers with their passion.

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“We also offer tutoring services to learners who live in other hostels or are day scholars and have created employment for Rhodes University students who serve as mentors and tutors to the learners,” she says.

After completing a master’s degree in statistics from the University of West Virginia in the USA, she was chosen to pioneer the Future Leaders Programme (FLP).

The programme is an initiative of the Ubuntu Education Fund NGO and is aimed at moulding and strengthening young people through education, life skills workshops and much-needed career guidance.

“The programme became a huge success in its first year. Some 93% of learners in the programme passed matric and most of them were placed at various universities.

“The main aim of the programme was to prepare learners from township schools for university. We did that successfully and were acknowledged for our work through various awards,” she says.

Through her work at Ubuntu programme, Makhubela was named one of the 2015 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans.

The PhD candidate and full-time statistics lecturer at Rhodes University left the programme after being headhunted by the institution.

Despite her academic roles and serving as the leader of Maqub’s Academy of Excellence, she offers tutoring services and also heads up a supermarket.

“These businesses allow me to help people in the education and health sectors,” she says.

Maqubela says her PhD focuses on statistics education, as this is a under-researched field in the African continent.

“I am working to be one of the leading pioneers of this field in South Africa and the African continent. The field is focused on looking at ways of improving the teaching and learning of statistics. My study is focused on innovative ways of assessing students to ensure that we are able to assess the way they think with statistical ideas,” she says.

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She started working at Rhodes University while she was only 23 years old. She recalls that she was young, energetic and enjoyed imparting knowledge to young people.

At this time, she didn’t understand the challenges she would have to navigate.

“Being young and black has been exciting and challenging. I get to understand my students, as the age gap is not too big and I keep a vibrant classroom environment that makes students excited to be in my class, which changes their perception about the subject I teach,” she says.

She has since innovated a way in which she uses her students as educators.

“I started a video project that produces YouTube resources for students explaining crucial concepts I know students battle within both Statistics and Theory of Finance,” she says.