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Meet Nka’Thuto Edu Propeller, the organisation developing the leaders of the tomorrow


Our youth have the potential to change the world, but do they have the opportunity to? As one of only a few science graduates in her community, Thandeka Mhlanga knows the barriers South African youth face to achieve a career in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) field. While vital in the education system, STEM subjects are out of reach for many learners in South Africa. So, doing what she does best, the young graduate threw on a lab coat and began devising a solution. The end result? Nka’Thuto Edu Propeller, an organisation using science, technology and innovation to build the leaders of tomorrow.

While working as a Masters Candidate Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Thandeka noticed a lack of scientific research skills in disadvantaged youth. “One of the reasons why South African learners struggle in maths and science is because they don’t get to see the application of these subjects in everyday life,” Thandeka says. Determined to show students the power of innovation, she teamed up with her co-worker, Thulile Kanyile, and co-founded Nka’Thuto Edu Propeller in 2017.

Now four years later, the duo have impacted more than 6 000 learners across the country. Through research methodology and innovation workshops, the team gives young learners the knowledge, skills and platform to address key issues in their communities such as sanitation, transport and water scarcity. From ideation to creation, Thandeka and Thulile assist with every stage of the process and even host expos for learners to present their ideas and create prototypes. Their work has seen promising results, with 43% of the grade nines and matriculants choosing STEM subjects after participating in the programme. 

However, their success hasn’t been without a few setbacks. While ensuring they have enough funding to run the workshops, the team were also tasked with the challenge of finding a safe and affordable space to store all their educational resources. “As a non-profit, we have a lot of materials that we distribute to the learners,” Thandeka says. “Stor-Age helps us store most of the stuff, so when it’s time to visit the schools, we can simply go to our unit and get what we need.” 

While the team at Nka’Thuto Edu Propeller have sparked innovation in South Africa’s disadvantaged communities, they have no plan of stopping there. With thousands of learners still lacking access to STEM subjects, the organisation plans to expand its reach across the continent and beyond. To find out more about Nka’Thuto Edu Propeller and their powerful work, visit their website or read their top tips for running an NPO on our blog. 

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