Taking the lead
27th February 2017
Problem-solving opens doors
28th February 2017

Promoting creative thinking

Fatou-Badiane-Toure is the managing director of Africa at Minerva Schools. Photo: Supplied

Fatou Badiane-Toure is scaling new academic heights; she dedicates her success to her maths teacher and supportive parents

Thabo Mohlala

Very few people hold a directorship position at the age of 30. It is only the supremely talented who can achieve this feat so early in their lives. Fatou Badiane-Toure undoubtedly belongs to this category of geniuses. She is the managing director: Africa at Minerva Schools, a prestigious start-up private institution founded four years ago in alliance with the California-based Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), a member of the Claremont Consortium in the US. Her role is to drive strategy in student recruitment and to build partnerships across the continent.

From a young age her parents — her mother is an entrepreneur, and her father is in the military — stressed the importance of education to her and her siblings, and they sacrificed a lot to ensure their children received quality education. Badiane-Toure said at one point they even rented out their house and stayed in a flat, so that they could use the proceeds to pay for their children’s schooling.

Born in Senegal, Dakar, Badiane-Toure was educated in her country’s primary and middle (grade 10) schools, then went on to the Senegalese American Bilingual School to do grades 11 and 12. After completing grade 12 she packed her bags and went to US, where she enrolled for an undergraduate degree in 2006. This was followed by a masters’ degree in information technology and management from Illinois Institute of Technology. She obtained a second MA in international education development — with distinction — from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2014.

During her primary and middle school education, Badiane-Toure was excellent in languages, particularly English and Spanish, but her performance in maths was less impressive. All this changed when she got a good maths teacher, who helped ignite a passion for the subject. Suddenly her attitude towards the subject changed and her performance improved markedly. “This sudden change highlighted one important fact: if learners have teachers who push them and believe in their potential, they can achieve more. My teacher did exactly that; he knew I could do well and he encouraged me to work hard, and I stepped up to the plate. I wanted to reciprocate in a way that would make him proud,” said Badiane-Toure.

Today she is a respected voice in education, particularly in maths circles, and gets regularly invited to present papers at various prestigious international platforms. One of such event was the Ugandan Mathematical Society’s annual teachers’ conference on “Supporting Independent Thinking through Mathematics”. Badiane-Toure said the theme is closely linked to what they do at Minerva Schools, which is to support top performing learners. “My talk [at the Ugandan conference] was not just about mathematical concepts; I connected this to the notion of expanding knowledge and helping to enhance learners’ cognitive and critical thinking skills. It is about enabling learners to think creatively and independently, and this can be achieved by providing constant support to our learners.”

She said at Minerva they use programmes such as maths, natural science, arts and humanities to stress to their students the significance of creativity, critical engagement, effective interaction and communication. Badiane-Toure said their institution’s main goal is to produce global citizens and leaders who are game-changers. She said their admission is not based on students’ ability to pay fees; they choose those with good academic achievements and who display curiosity and passion to learn new things, as well as being actively involved in their communities.

Once admitted in the programme, she said, students spend one year in the US and then visit other countries. “We want our students to formulate unique perspectives needed to succeed in the 21st Century. Our students are always in high demand and get easily snapped [up] by global business giants such as Apple, Amazon, Dalberg, Yahoo and Fujitsu, to do internships with them.”

Working with youth is Badiane-Toure’s other passion. She said she strongly believes that educating young people is the most critical long-term investment any country can ever make. She gained first-hand knowledge and understanding of youth issues while at the African Leadership Academy, which develops and unearths young and dynamic African leaders, where she was the associate director of admissions in Francophone west and central Africa.

“I am where I am today because my parents gave me the eternal gift of education,” concluded Badiane-Toure.


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