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Mr William Smith

The Order of the Baobab in

Mr William Smith Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the teaching and demystification of mathematics and science. Through the medium of television (TV), he made mathematics and science accessible even to the most marginalised in our society.
Mr William Smith matriculated at Union High School in Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Chemistry from Rhodes University, followed by an Honours degree (Cum Laude) in Chemistry from the same institution.

He further obtained a Master’s degree from the then University of Natal (now University of KwaZulu-Natal) in only seven months.

While a teacher he obtained financial support to run an expensive TV operation so that the poorest of the poor could benefit at no cost from his lessons in mathematics and science.

He convinced the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to run the programme, even during prime time, especially during national exam periods.

His ground-breaking TV programme in the 1990s was called the Learning Channel on the SABC platform. The programme was essentially an open South African school teaching physical science, mathematics, biology and English.

He made an exceptional contribution to the field of education in South Africa, particularly the innovative teaching of science and mathematics. His Learning Channel platform revolutionised teaching even in the most underprivileged areas of the country and in turn, South Africa produced many scientists.

On a basic TV signal, he gave the best education for free and many people who grew up in the 1990s supplemented their knowledge of mathematics through Smith. His face is iconic for many black youth of the 90s, some of whom have gone on to become leading engineers and scientists.