Maya Jagjivan Kalicharan meets a remarkable young lady who is pioneering an education revolution.
Alexandra Lutz from Hillcrest is ambitious. How many 15-year-olds can say they have presented in boardrooms and discussed technological innovations with developers? Not just that. How many 17-year-olds can say they founded a free online learning platform that is registered as a non-profit company?
Alexandra had been researching integrating technology into education, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. For schools like hers, St Johns DSG in Pietermaritzburg, the switch to online learning was easy. “My teacher, Mrs Brown, was brilliant during lockdown. She gave amazing lessons, and she brought it to life. She said to me: ‘think about how many learners don’t have access to technology!’
I knew about the already huge inequalities in education in the country, and now COVID-19 heightened it,” says Alexandra.
That’s when she got in touch with Sbu Myeni from the Imbeleko Foundation – which assists students from the Valley of 1000 Hills. She worked with twins Anele and Aneliswa Shange. With the help of her teacher, headmaster and head girl, Alexandra shared resources of their weekly lessons on Google Drive on a tablet that she found lying at home. She loaded it with data and would also send them Google Docs
to get feedback.
“After that pilot project I thought: why can’t we put it online and make it available to thousands of students, millions of students? Why do we gatekeep amazing resources?”
And that’s how Milani Education was born. Milani comes from the isiXhosa word, meaning to grow, and Alexandra, with great support from her family, her mum Judith in particular, began working on growing her dream. With funding help from a family friend, Lloyd Meaker, and working with digital and creative company RHI (Rumour Has It), Milani was developed in 2022. Today they are also backed by Bidvest.
Currently the website has the mathematics CAPS curriculum for grade 8 to 12 learners. English Home Language, English First Additional Language and Business Studies are in the pipeline. Eventually the goal is to have all subjects added, and in different languages – which will require work and more funding.
When she’s not busy with Milani or studying, Alexandra has her duties as head boarder at school to take care of, and enjoys playing sport. She plans on studying data science at Stellenbosch University and says she will always be passionate about revolutionising education through technology.
“My dream is for Milani to be the Google or YouTube of education,” she says with a smile.
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