The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences held the graduation dinner for the class of 2009 at the Muizenberg Pavilion on June 25, 2009. Present were Vice-Chancellors from three of Cape Town’s Universities, and the Kenyan Ambassador Tom Amolo.

I was invited to attend this years graduation of the 2009 AIMS postgraduate diploma on what was forecast to be a stormy day, but it cleared up in time. I have blogged about AIMS before - on the opening of their Research Centre.

The welcoming address was given by Kenyan Ambassador to South Africa Tom Amolo, having been introduced by Professor Fritz Hahne of the Institute.

University of Stellenbosch

AIMS has been existence for five years now, but degrees from its diploma course are conferred by three Western Cape Universities. The strongest ties are to Stellenbosch University, where the Vice Chancellor Russell Botman gave an address highlighting the many links that university has with other academic institutions over the continent. After that he waved his wand, and caused the pavilion to be a part of Stellenbosch University before conferring diplomas on one third of the AIMS graduates.

Which third is basically a lottery at the beginning of the academic year -there is no significance of which university any particular graduate is alloted to.

University of the Western Cape

Next up was Professor Brian O’Connell - Vice Chancellor of University of the Western Cape - who gave a stirring presentation, as he always does. This time it was on the dual message of Hope and Action. Hope is of no use without action, and to anchor Hope requires a mission. He spoke passionately on the role UWC played as a ’non-white’ university during the Apartheid era, and the need for Action in countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Well done. The UWC wand was waved, and the next third of the graduates got their diplomas.

University of Cape Town

Lastly, Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo

  • a deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town gave an address with with some humour addressed to this years graduates, and presented diplomas to the remaining graduates.


New this year were four scholarship awards - named after Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Paul Allen, and Victor Rothschild. These were presented to four of this years graduates who won ‘cum laude’ distinctions to their diplomas.


AIMS, the brainchild of Neil Turok, TED winner and Chair of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University. I think it provides, on these occasions of graduation, a place of mutual celebration between these three Universities that often find themselves as rivals in academia.

We had a very nice dinner afterwards, during which Dr Thandi Mgwebi of theNational Research Foundation have a short talk on the relevance of the AIMS model in the South African education environment, and Dr Phillipe Mawoko of NEPAD gave a continent-wide perspective. I found myself at the table with the Kenyan Ambassador, and took the opportunity to introduce myself and explain the work that the Shuttleworth Foundation and Inkululeko is doing in South African schools as a part of the tuxlab project.