Five students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) are in Oxford this weekend to compete against over 1 000 teams from across the globe as they all seek to understand and resolve challenges plaguing their home countries and the world at large.
Tlhogi Dube, Prashant Venkat, Mabothe Maleka, Phalo Maurice-Mopp and Thuba Mzila travelled to the University of Oxford, where they will represent UCT at the Oxford Global Challenge, Map the System 2019. They are one of 1 146 teams competing, from 33 universities internationally.
Map the System is a global competition that challenges participants to think differently – and deeply – about social and environmental change. It is hosted by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Saïd Business School.
Participants must choose a social or an environmental challenge to explore and research in depth. They must find out about the existing suggested solutions, and get familiar with the relevant role players. They are then required to present their understanding of the challenge in an accessible way.
“We have put a lot of work into an area we believe is going to be crucial for the future success of our country.”
The UCT team, called Mas’Funde, all completed BBusSc degrees in finance with accounting in 2018 and are now pursuing their postgraduate diplomas in accounting.
They chose South Africa’s basic education crisis as their challenge and their trip to the United Kingdom was made possible by a R50 000 donation from Investec.
Venkat said they are passionate about the challenge they chose because of its importance in South Africa.
“The consequences that the crisis … has on inclusive socio-economic growth are massive. If systems thinking and social entrepreneurship can be applied effectively to any of the problems presented, I doubt [other teams] will have as large an impact on a community as this,” he said.
Mzila agreed, adding that the team committed to researching the problem in depth.
“We have taken time to thoroughly engage with [many] of the stakeholders within the education system and feel that our findings have the potential to add real value to current literature.
“We have put a lot of work into an area we believe is going to be crucial for the future success of our country,” he said.
Opportunities and excitement
The competition takes place over two days from today.
While they have many reasons to be excited, the team members listed a few of the experiences to which they are most looking forward.
For Mzila, it is his first trip abroad: “I have never been overseas. I am from the Midlands in KwaZulu-Natal and so the furthest I have been from home is probably to Cape Town – even though I have been to Swaziland.”
Being able to present their findings at Oxford is “an incredible opportunity”, said Venkat.
“I really believe there is an enormous amount that we can achieve as a human race through collaboration, and this event will spark some very important conversations.”
“I look forward to seeing the work we’ve done throughout the year culminate at the event.”
Dube is eager to meet and work with the rest of the participants, a sentiment echoed by Maurice-Mopp.
“I really believe there is an enormous amount that we can achieve as a human race through collaboration, and this event will spark some very important conversations, which I believe will further this cause,” said Maurice-Mopp.
He added that the people the team have met and spoken to along the way have been “very generous in how they have helped us”.
They include the group’s mentors Rowan Spazzoli and Ncedisa Nkoyeni, as well as UCT’s Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
In addition to providing assistance to Mas’Funde, the Bertha Centre also hosted the regional round of the competition and offered support to the 49 other local teams that registered to compete. Ultimately, Mas’Funde emerged as the unanimous winners from that round.
Spazzoli, who is the project manager at the Bertha Centre for Map the System, is no stranger to the competition. In 2017, the research start-up he co-founded, AllSafe, placed fourth overall.
“We’re incredibly proud and excited for the team,” he said.
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