Entrepreneur empowers students through science

Entrepreneur Bathabile Mpofu, equips students with chemistry kits Picture: Luke Daniel/Supplied

Entrepreneur Bathabile Mpofu, equips students with chemistry kits Picture: Luke Daniel/Supplied

Published Aug 17, 2022


Johannesburg - “Science is the study of matter. If you understand the matter that is around you and you understand how it behaves, you are able to use that knowledge to your advantage.”

These are the words of scientist and entrepreneur Bathabile Mpofu. Mpofu is the founder of Nkazimulo Applied Sciences, an award-winning educational portable science kit provider that helps learners perform science experiments themselves to better grasp science concepts so they pass their exams and ultimately become confident scientists.

Mpofu was born and raised in Nongoma, in KwaZulu-Natal, and has always been drawn to science.

“I stayed in the location and enjoyed a lot of TV while growing up, and I found science shows very interesting, especially biology shows, just learning about what happens in the human body. I always found those things interesting.”

During school holidays, when she was home from boarding school, Mpofu would use whatever resources she had at her disposal to try and replicate the experiments she saw on the television.

“I've had a love for science since I was young, and I’d say it was inspired by the information that was shared on TV,” she says.

Mpofu realised early on while in high school that she was at a disadvantage because her school did not have a functioning laboratory. So she could never put the theory she had learned in class into practice.

The first time Mpofu was able to do practical experiments in a laboratory was when she got to university, and she described the experience as traumatic.

“You get to university, and they expect you to have a certain level of competence from high school, and you don’t.”

“When I was in school, I was actually quite sharp. I understood quite well, but now when I get to university and realise how ill-equipped I am, it dented my spirit and knocked my confidence,” she said.

This resulted in Mpofu not doing well enough to get into medical school. This, however, has not deterred Mpofu and has instead become the catalyst that has sparked her desire to ensure that other children from disadvantaged communities do not suffer the same fate.

Mpofu has gone on to attain her BSc & Honours in Chemistry through the University of KwaZulu Natal and an MBA at the University of Cape Town.

She is a part of a small number of women in her field of work and business. According to Statistics SA: women account for a mere 23% of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) professionals in South Africa. Of those, only 17% are in leadership roles.

Through her business Nkazimulo Applied Sciences, she has developed the ChemStart portable science kit that can be used to perform various scientific experiments, which makes practical scientific experimentation for a larger number of pupils in disadvantaged areas.

The portable science kit developed by Bathabile Mpofu allows pupils to put their theoretical knowledge to the test by allowing them to perform practical experiments Picture: Supplied

The kit includes basic glassware and chemicals to perform experiments from various grades. There are 52 experiments, one experiment for every week. Each science concept covered is linked with its application in real life.

Experiments covered include chemical kinetics, spontaneous reactions, polymers, acid-base reactions, gas properties, density, solubilities, osmosis, chemiluminescence, refraction, and many more.

Although she had intended it for schools, she has seen a greater uptake from parents who want to give their children a head start and also from those who homeschool their children.

Mpofu would like to see more schools approach her to access her portable science kits, regardless of what their needs are, as she is willing to try to accommodate them wherever possible.

Bathabile Mpofu is determined to ensure that disadvantaged children are not prejudiced and are able to reach their full potential.

“When I was 16 years old, I realised that my future was never going to happen the way that I imagined, and it wasn’t my fault. I was capable but dis-empowered. High school didn’t prepare me for university education. Unfortunately, thousands of learners go through this experience every year, and this is not right!” she concludes.

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