Who We Are

“Math success is about reaching every teacher and every learner wherever they are on their learning path.”

The Trust aims to improve teaching and learning outcomes in mathematics in South Africa by deploying teaching tools to engage students in the hands on learning of mathematics.

The Proficiency Foundation Trust was established in 2018. It is a registered Public Benefit and Non-Profit Organisation (PBO & NPO), with a fundamental commitment to creating equal opportunities, to increase curriculum-based learning and teaching outcomes in mathematics in the underserved schools in South Africa. The Trust is dedicated to improving math skills with innovative programmes and techniques that increase teaching performance.

The core objective of the Proficiency Trust is to produce highly proficient teachers and learners. Our programme places emphasis on helping make abstract ideas concrete, by lifting math off textbook pages and using math manipulatives to help learners construct an understanding that they can then connect to mathematical vocabulary and symbols.

As we continue to work towards improving the long-term education outcomes in South Africa, we aim:

  • to build learners’ confidence by using math manipulatives and giving them tools to test and confirm their reasoning.
  • to improve their problem-solving skills.
  • to be intrigued and motivated by making learning math interesting and enjoyable.

Through the collaboration across social partners, and the support of philanthropy and corporate sector funders, we identify opportunities to build capacity within the education sector at both learner level and teacher level. We provide a solid platform for scaling the teaching and education of mathematics with the use of math manipulatives to build scale that ensures long-term capacity and consistent impact in the education sector, to exponentially improving education outcomes in South Africa.

How We Do It

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”
Benjamin Franklin

The Proficiency Trust believes in strong partnerships and collaboration with stakeholders, including education departments, donors, service providers, and schools where learning takes place across South Africa.

We partner with organisations that develop programmes and techniques using physical ‘manipulatives’ to take math problems out of your head and put them in your hands, where they become easy to solve.

This is achieved by:

  • Accessing the most effective and cost-effective educational tools of learning available, with a dedicated focus on targeting schools that are in areas of dire need with interventions that maximise long term societal impact;
  • Enticing learners to be willing to explore and get involved. The intervention of math manipulatives allows learners to become curious and eager to learn without realising that they are learning; and
  • Proving the best instructional content to stimulate mathematical thinking that keeps teachers at the heart of classroom instruction. Content that helps teachers and learners alike to explore math and achieve learning goals with inclusive teacher-directed strategies.

It has been proven that this interactive learning process keeps teachers and learners engaged, preventing learners from falling behind, or losing interest, and failing math.


The Foundation Phase Mathematics – we believe that grasping and understanding of numeracy and math concepts needs to be developed at foundation phase grades, a critical entry point in the schooling system. We have programmes designed for this phase that seek to improve the teaching outcomes of math and improve learner math understanding whilst building their confidence.

Senior Phase Mathematics – the focus in this phase is to improve math knowledge backlogs at the point of entry to high school. Our focus area is Grade 8 and Grade 9 where greater impact can be achieved to creating a better understanding of math and preparing learners before they choose subject streams leading to Matric. The Trust is set up to evolve it’s focus areas over time as it’s work in the education sector develops in the country.



Why You Can Trust Us

The Proficiency Trust Board of Trustees oversees the governance of the organisation and have a combined experience of over one hundred years in the corporate, education and philanthropy sectors.

The Foundation is an approved Public Benefit Organisation (“PBO”) under PBO number 930062567 and Section 18A (1)(a) approved. Also registered under NPO 213-482.

Bheki Shongwe (Chairperson)

Bheki is currently the executive chairperson of Flow communications, a position he has held since 2012. He has more than 30 years of business experience in finance, marketing, sales, and general management and prior to his role at Flow was the managing director of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club. Bheki has a long-standing fascination with the role of education in driving social development.

Peter Ogilvie

Peter comes from a family business background and over 30 years in Media, Distribution and Supply Chain and Merchandise Management both in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Positions held have always involved an extensive Change Management role and from this Peter has developed a passion for education and job creation and aims to continue this vision through the work of the Proficiency Trust.

Prince Siluma

Prince Siluma is the nominee of FNB Fiduciary (PTY) Ltd, an independent corporate trustee. He currently heads up FNB Fiduciary Philanthropy. A well-rounded business strategist with over 20 years of financial services experience; Prince has a demonstrated history of driving solutionist thinking extending from finance, fiduciary services, social investment strategy, grant making and management to working with Non-Profit organisations and the Corporate Social Investment sector.

Partnerships and Programmes

"Excellent teaching gives children the life chances they deserve... Enjoyment is the birthright of every child. But the most powerful mix is the one that brings the two together. Children learn better when they are excited and engaged - but what excites and engages them best is truly excellent teaching.”


Early childhood development: 90% of a child’s brain develops by the age of five and South Africa currently has six million children below the age of six.

For South African children to succeed and compete in this 21st Century and the fourth industrial revolution (“4IR”), their mathematical skills need to be developed during this phase. The use of math manipulatives during the Early Childhood Development (ECD) phase of child development are stimulating to children as the learning tools create excitement in a playful way which encourages creativity in children.

The ECD programme is designed with bespoke learning tools developed for The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) and the National Early Learning and Development Standards (NELDS).


Grades 8 and 9: The focus is on Grade 8 children coming from many different primary schools with various levels of math competency. It is especially important that, this cohort of learners are provided with support structures that will lift, align, and standardise the conceptual foundation for learning high school maths, with a focus on certain key concepts of the math programmes to meet the required competency as laid out in the South African CAPS curriculum.


The Proficiency Trust, through its partnership with Clever Minds Direct Pty Ltd (CMD), a supplier of education products, training services and curriculum development, the Foundation benefits from the experiences and successes that CMD has had in the South African Education Sector. Since 2015 over 350 000 learners and over 4500 teachers were reached across 5 provinces with pleasing results and significant impact:

  • 17% increase in competency in Grade 3: 2015 vs 2017
  • 40% increase in competency in Grade 6: 2015 vs 2017
  • 74% increase in competency in Grade 9: 2015 vs 2017

Provinces reached include Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape.


Magic Maths is CMD’s teacher programme which facilitates ‘learning by doing’. The programme offers a grounding of mathematical concepts and topics through a ‘Show me and I understand’ approach.

Maths often seems hard because children are taught that there is only one correct way to learn it, by memory. The purpose of the programmes is to create a love and passion for maths and a belief in each child that they are ‘good at maths’, so that later they’re more willing and able to participate. Sounds like magic, right?

Magic Maths gives learners physical objects called ‘manipulatives’, so that they can visualise what the problems look like, and use a more hands-on method of solving them, rather than trying to work it all out in their heads. Linking the manipulative to the curriculum is important to justify the expense and the need for the manipulative in the first place.


Magic Buddies is a structured peer to peer math network program. It is enabled by identifying talented math learners who are offered the opportunity to become a math mentor. Only learners who are achieving 65% and above for math are eligible to become a mentor

Magic Buddies is a country first. It is a peer-to-peer network program for learners by learners. The programmes select talented math learners and appoints them as mentors. Each mentor is shadowed by learners who need support in math to increase their grades.

Many learners would rather ask their friends for math support on a one-on-one basis than ask for help from a teacher in front of a whole class, that’s where the genius of Magic Buddies comes in: officially appointing students who achieve more than 65% to help students who are struggling allows the lesson to be passed on without the teacher present.

How do the mentors benefit? Aside from being acknowledged in front of the whole school at year end, selected mentors are afforded the opportunity to advance themselves to Advanced Math where they are encouraged to strive towards self-development and academic excellence.


The CMD Saturday School program is an afterhours intervention that is used to improve a group of learners’ capabilities in a specific topic, or term’s work. The Saturday School programmes are based on the CMD’s Magic Maths and Magic Buddies methodology. That is, teaching complex math concepts with physical, hands-on math manipulatives which convert an abstract concept to a concrete, visual representation of the concept, for a solid foundation and well-formed understanding of the “WHY” behind certain concepts.

A Saturday school can take many forms and are fully customisable to any specific needs.

  1. It can be used for remedial purposes, that is, to provide support and additional teaching to learners who are struggling to comprehend certain topics and allow them to reach their true potential.
  2. It can provide talented learners with the extra guidance they need to improve their results.
  3. It can be used for exam and test preparation throughout the year.
  4. It can be used as a “crash course” or “refresher course” for topics that learners struggle with, or simply need to refresh.

With this in mind, and with a very successful outcome, the Saturday School Programmes have produced phenomenal results. For example, Algebra which is introduced in Grade 8 and expanded on in Grade 9 in the South African CAPS curriculum. Historically, Algebra has proven to be a hugely compromised area in the math curriculum. Algebra provides a base for almost all the math concepts taught in Senior and FET Phase Math.

Where are we going?