About Us

A winning nation is a numerate nation

COUNT’s primary focus is to develop and implement support programmes and materials that help to improve the standard of numeracy and mathematics teaching. Our approach is informed both by curriculum policy and practices of the DBE, by current international trends in mathematics education as well as by our vast experience in the field.
The nature of our interventions varies. While some programmes have been district or provincially based funded by Government or larger donor agencies like USAID , where we have been part of a consortium made up of a number of service providers, smaller programmes are individually funded, tailor made for a specific funder’s requirements.

In the last 27 years we COUNT has provided workshops and school-based mentoring and support to thousands of educators hundreds of educators across South Africa.

A brief history

In 1989 COUNT was registered as a Fund Raising organisation, then later as a Nonprofit Organisation (NPO) and Public Benefit Organisation (PBO), whose work was to focus on addressing the teaching and learning of primary mathematics, with a commitment to servicing those school communities with the greatest need. Most of our founding Board Members were from the Eastern Cape, because this is where we launched our first project.

They were either prominent members in their communities or academics connected in some way to what is now NMMU, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Three of these members, Prof Hugh Glover, Dr Vuks Tshazibana and Ms. Thandi Hlam are our longest standing board members today and our first rural schools and Family Maths Trainer in the Eastern Cape, now Prof Nosisi Feza, Head of the Institute for Science and Technology Education at Unisa, has recently joined our board.

Back in Gauteng

Our first office was a second-hand construction hut donated by Murray and Roberts, which arrived on a huge truck and was dramatically lifted off by crane and placed behind a house on a smallholding being rented by Penny Smith , the outgoing Director that she was renting in Broederstroom, close to Lanseria.

It was here that our current Finance Manager, Ms Elsie Arnold, joined us. Elsie was a smart young woman of 20 something, imposing and capable and 25 years later, she is still with COUNT. She has experienced all our highs and lows, our successes and challenges that seem an inescapable feature of the non-profit world. She has been the major contributor in establishing and managing an efficient financial department, whilst, in addition, also assuming many other project management tasks.

Saturday School programme

Around this time, COUNT launched the first Saturday school of its kind, catering for rural school children from Lanseria and Krugersdorp Farm schools. The venue was the magnificent school built by Gary Player on his Blair Atholl property/ The school was later rebuilt on an adjacent property once the farm was sold.

Every Saturday, throughout the school year, we bussed in children from neighbouring schools and ran fun maths classes, using equipment, encouraging talking and drawing of their solutions and providing lots of practice exercises to help them with their school maths.

One of our star learners of the school, David Oupatjie Bakers, went on to complete his degree in Information Technology (IT). To this day, he is active in youth agencies and schools in that same community. He has always kept his links with COUNT and has recently been appointed to the board.

Expanding our team

Our first two full-time trainers were ex-teachers at Blair Atholl Farm School, Daniel Mabalne and Angeline Poo . They had both recently graduated from the Soweto College of Education, were gifted, enthusiastic and loved their work with children and later as tutors at our Saturday school. Our programme was interesting! We planned activities for the children that encouraged talking and sharing of ideas. We played games, did puzzles and challenges and developed interesting practice worksheets that linked to what they were doing in class.

As more projects became available, we needed more staff and Manono Poo and Dan Mabalne left their jobs as teachers to join COUNT, where they served for many years, becoming Senior Trainers and Programme Managers for programmes in Sebokeng in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. Dan left COUNT to establish his own training agency in the Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN) field. Manono is soon to complete her PhD in Maths education at Wits.

Move to Braamfontein

In the mid-90’s, COUNT established a second Gauteng office in Braamfontein, the hive of the non-profit sector at that time. Our funding base grew, as did our projects and outreach. Some of our early local funders included the Liberty Life, Southern Life and ABSA Foundations, Eskom, Nedbank, the Anglo-American Chairman’s Fund, Murray and Roberts, IDT, and JET, to name a few. Early overseas donors included the Genesis Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund, World University Services and several foreign embassies, as well as DFID and USAID.

Lesedi Rakgokong, a recently appointed board member, was appointed Project Co-ordinator at a time when he had just completed his Master’s Degree in Maths Education at Wits. He was joined by Ms Jansie Niehaus, a passionate and creative maths teacher, now the CEO of the National Science and Technology Forum(NSTF), a consultative forum and watchdog for influencing the formulation and delivery of science, engineering, technology (SET) and innovation public policy in South Africa.

Soon after, we were joined by Professor Mamokghethi Phakeng (then Setati), a former mathematics subject advisor in the Krugersdorp office of the Department of Education and now the recently appointed Vice Chancellor of Research and Internationalisation at the University of Cape Town.

This small but formidable team, with their collective experience and passion for teaching mathematics, their academic links and a finger on the pulse of what was happening in the field – both in SA and internationally – injected vigour, quality and energy into our work and soon the demands for our services grew. We were busy with programmes in schools across several provinces. Through the team’s interests and connections, we took part in discussions groups, forums and organisational networks at an exciting time post-1994 when the country was seriously revisiting its education system and in our case, searching for particular ways to offer quality primary school mathematics support to schools most in need.

One association that had a great impact on COUNT, began with the meeting with colleagues from Utrecht, the Netherlands, Holland including Jansie Niehaus from the Freudenthal Institute. Their approach to teaching and learning maths challenged our beliefs to the core and thereafter influenced our approach to training and materials development. Professor Hans Freudenthal, the Institute’s founder, not only achieved fame and recognition as a pure mathematician, but as a leading mathematics educator and founder of the stream of realistic mathematics education that championed the notion of learning mathematics through discovery.

Another memorable meeting was with trainers and students from the Ethno-mathematics group of researchers working with Paulus Gerdes in Mozambique, who gave hands-on workshops to teachers and to our Saturday school learners using indigenous basket weaving designs to develop ideas around geometry and patterns. This was our first introduction to the field of Ethno-mathematics, the study of the relationship between mathematics and culture, which has been a growing field of interest ever since.

Locally, we were lucky enough to meet and learn from the powerful team of social constructivists based in Stellenbosch at the time. Piet Human, Alwyn Olivier and the late Hanlie Murray gave workshops across the country and at the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa {AMESA] conferences. This prompted us to further reflect on our more conventional approaches and how we could expand learning activities to involve learners more directly in creating their own understanding and own ways of modelling problems independently.

Over the years, we developed a close working relationship with Prof Piet Human and some of our staff left us to join him at the Ukuqonda Institute he formed.

Dr Erna Lampen, now a lecturer in the Education Faculty at Stellenbosch University, helped us to develop materials and programmes for the Mahlahle Project, a large scale intervention managed by JET in the Limpopo Province.

Another close associate who influence our philosophy and approach at that time was Dr Retha Van Niekerk, a pioneer researcher in the field of shape and space development in young children and now a lecturer in the Foundation Phase at the North-West University. It was also at this time that we began our long time association with Dr Caroline Long, a leader in the field of mathematics education research and evaluation.


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