Lunch and artificial intelligence: Part 1

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Yesterday I received a lunch invitation from a friend at work that had this title: “Tell me more about AI” on the subject line. Yes. Yes. She knows how to tickle my nerd side! Admittedly, it made me feel like a specialist in some obscure, magical, futuristic field. I’m glad she trusted what I was […]

18%; 50 to 60%; R300+ million — figures for SA universities




According to Council of Higher Education (CHE):

  • South African universities have space for only 18% of students who finish high school. I think it is a safe assumption to say these 18% are the best in SA as admission is largely based on performance. (What then happens to the remaining 82%? What percentage gets into other forms of tertiary ed?)
  • Of the students that get admitted into a university, 41% never graduate, that is they drop out because of one reason or another
  • Of these that dropout, 50 – 60% do so in their first year – more than half of the students that will drop out of higher education institutions countrywide will do so during their first year!

IF (big, bold “if” because this is some eye-popping stuff) my Math is right, about 20% of those that get into university drop out in their first year! Taking the example of the University of the Witwatersrand that admits 5 500 first year students, this means 1 100 students face some form of dropout or at least a repeat. With 1 100 students not making into their second year and an average school fees of R30 000 in first year, that’s a whooping R33 million swallowed by the system with no tangible returns. Whether this money is coming from government or corporates via bursaries or, worse still, from parents, this is a large sum. And that’s at Wits only.¬† The Head of School of Education at Wits said it’s fair to assume that if things are dire at Wits, they are roughly as bad or worse elsewhere. University of Johannesburg has about 10 800 first year places and this dropout rate translates to a crazy R64.8 million! I can’t imagine how much it all adds up to when you consider other universities.

These are scary figures. There are talks about increasing the capacity of universities from 18% to 25% of high school leavers. If whatever needs to be fixed is not fixed, this increase will also result in an increase in dropouts, in money absorbed with no tangible returns, ceteris paribus.

This is a really complicated issue with complex reasons at play but one of my friends asked me what I would suggest should be done. Admittedly I am still learning but my first solution is the wide adoption of a stronger curriculum like Cambridge at high school level. Of course it’s proposing a seemingly simple solution (though not) to a multifaceted problem and blaming everything on the curriculum but I’m convinced it’s a good start. I’ve been a private tutor and also through my startup IQmates, which is largely focused on that transition stage from Grade 12 to first year university level, I get to interact with many students from different universities and their first complaint is the same – “High school never prepared us for this.” It will obviously be tough and expensive in the beginning as teachers have to be found and properly trained, failure rates might increase etc but it will pay off later. As one thinker said “A leader plants a tree for a shade he will not sit under.” Maybe I’m too forward, there has been some progress and we need to see what the CAPS curriculum will achieve.

A 3D atlas of the universe

Interested in Astronomy and how the stars work but have no way of visualizing them? Well, don’t despair. Watch this talk by Carter Emmart he did for TED.

According to TED, “For the last 12 years, Carter Emmart has been coordinating the efforts of scientists, artists and programmers to build a complete 3D visualization of our known universe. He demos this stunning tour and explains how it’s being shared with facilities around the world. ”

See the brilliant talk below:

5 000 registered users!


Today IQmates reached another milestone: 5 000 registered users! It has been a great journey thus far, with a steep learning curve as we aim to create a useful online educational portal that meets its fundamental goal – allowing students to come together, share knowledge and learn.

What is exciting about this milestone is not the number attached to it. It is the realisation that there are students who need such an online community that is dedicated to helping them learn with their peers! It has given us renewed motivation especially now when we are starting to develop our own curricula-relevant content after our testing phase.

As we go on to the next five, six, ten thousand, remember to keep sharing your knowledge!

IQmates Team

— IQmates : Knowledge Shared —

First day, first year, first tear.


Four years later and I made it! So will you!

Eish. I remember by first day of varsity all too well. I wouldn’t say it was very pleasant. I was absolutely terrified. And I pretty much came home and cried after the day was done. And sitting in morning AND afternoon traffic didn’t help matters either.

My first lecture was English literature and I recall sitting right at the front (why I did that I still don’t know!). Let’s just say I FULLY believe that the lecturer assigned to us that day was PURPOSELY placed there by the department to terrify and horrify the living daylights out of us. Firstly, he spoke in the language of Academia, which to this day I still don’t understand, and I’ve just graduated with English and Journalism Honours. Secondly, he did very little to calm our nerves. He immediately began telling us about test dates and essays, and then proceeded to launch into an “explanation” of the book none of us had even purchased yet. I was traumatised. Oh and not to mention the fact that he never once took off his sunglasses (?) throughout the whole lecture. He must’ve picked up on the fact we were a bright bunch …

BUT. Let me get to the heart of this post: English literature was my first lecture and as traumatizing as it was, it was my last lecture too, 4 years later! So the purpose of this post? To tell any first years reading this post that you’re GOING TO BE OK! Trust me. If I, a self-confessed sufferer of severe anxiety, can make it through varsity – then you definitely can ūüėČ

The trick is not to give up. Don’t do it! The first few days and weeks of varsity are ridiculously overwhelming! Notes, readings, textbooks 10 billion pages thick, lectures, new people (and if you’re a Witsie, pigeons … TONS of them – look out for the ones with one eye or one leg, they’re insane and will try to eat your croissant) – you have A LOT to adjust to. But the simple thing is, you will adjust. I promise.

Here are some lessons I learned (the hard way) while at Wits. I hope they’ll help you some way!

1) You’re overwhelmed and it’s crazy and growing up is hard! But give yourself time and space to adjust. You’ll start to navigate your way around campus and get used to being in lectures and managing the work. It really is just a matter of time. And looking after yourself in the process. Do things you love – it’s important. Don’t give up on sport or a hobby just because you feel varsity work is hectic. You WILL manage and you NEED a break.

2) Suss out which lecturers and tutors you like and ask them for help, advice and support. If you’re not coping or feel overwhelmed, tell them. They’ll help you. I have first-hand experience of this. It’s ok if you’re not managing and need an extension. Life happens and you’re important.

3) Campuses have great support systems available – especially psychologists and counsellors on hand. Use them if you need to. They are mostly free and can give you valuable advice and insight.

4) Varsity is all about learning what you like. You might pick a subject and hate it or find you’re not so great at it. And that’s totally ok! I dropped out of second year Maths. Why? Because I realised I just didn’t have a passion for it anymore and it became frustrating to study for a subject I just wasn’t into (and really didn’t get. That is some logic and thinking on another level entirely). Maths was actually painful. I’m just going to put it out there. So I dropped it and picked up an extra subject in third year – a subject I absolutely loved and one that complemented my degree. Moral of the story? You can CHANGE your subjects. You can ALWAYS make up your credits someway. Even if you fail. So be it! (I once got 10% for a Maths test. I laughed it off. From 90s in Maths in high school to 10% at varsity … What had the world come to ;)) You’ll make up those credits and find what it is you enjoy. Be motivated by your passion. Don’t drop out because you’re failing but you love your subject. Drop a course because you realise it’s just not YOU.

5) Enjoy the varsity experience. You’ll have some good days, bad days, rainy days (make sure you have an umbrella ;)) and sunny days – but all in all, each day will make up your varsity experience. And just remember – it’s YOUR experience, no one else’s. You do what YOU love. You will always get someone who wants to put you down. But this is YOUR life, and you choose how you want to live it.

From a Witsie graduate (who still wants to do her Master’s and PhD), I wish you everything of the very best for this exciting new time in your life. If you have any questions or comments, I’d be so happy to help or get back to you! My email is

Look after yourselves. YOU’RE the important one in all this.

Live. Love. Laugh.

Introducing Course Practice Questions on IQmates

calculus practice questions

calculus practice questions

example practice question on IQmates

example practice question on IQmates
















We all have had that moment when you have read your notes enough times and all you want is an opportunity to test your understanding. Well, now you do not have to wait for the lecturer to come with a test for you to know how well you have internalised the course content.

On IQmates, we are introducing practice questions you can attempt anytime, anywhere in any available course! As seen from the pictures above, you now have the option to watch revision tutorial videos or attempt questions¬†(see image 1 above). These questions are sourced from carefully selected IQContributors who are mainly ¬†university tutors and you can be attempt them in sections or topics. This feature is also available on IQmates’ mobisite! You don’t need to be on your computer to test your knowledge – now you easily attempt questions, learn and revise your course content on a taxi or bus home! This is in line with our Learn On The Go initiative¬†(see images below).

calculus practice questions on mobisite

calculus mobi 2

calculus mobi 3







You can keep track of the number attempts you took to get a question correct. Every correctly answered question is marked green and every incorrect one is marked red. If you do not know how to answer a question or fully understand the answer, you are able to “buy” a tip or an explanation. The word buy is in quotes because you will use your IQPoints as currency. The points are gained by contributing in discussion groups, doing activities like sharing IQmates to your social media¬†accounts, and attempting questions in our general knowledge IQ-Quiz game (this is explained in another Admin blog post).

The practice questions make use of our feature we call Randomised Options. What this simply means is, say for example option A is South Africa, B is Zimbabwe, C is Tanzania and D is Lesotho, when the question is viewed again, the options are  randomly rotated around so that, maybe, now A is Lesotho, B s Tanzania, C is South Africa and D is Zimbabwe. This is to help you engage with the question and not only cram the option. Tied in with tips and explanations, this feature makes learning much better and challenging. We are working on a variety of other question types that will test you even further and better prepare you for tests and exams.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, register into courses and start learning for FREE!


— IQmates : Knowledge Shared —

Adjusting to the University life

Congratulations you have made it to university.. how to adjust?

MATRIC, a stepping stone, a coming of age, a time of change, a time of growth and planning, a time of living and enjoying, a beginning for some and an end or transition for others. Well atleast for me it was the beginning of transition.

In university, you come and go as you please. The many different choices you make and the repercussions of those decisions will be yours and yours alone because you are now an adult in university . University is very different from high school just by the personal freedoms, the classroom and the social life.

Personal freedom is a very important thing people like to have. Everyone likes to be able to do what they want, whenever they want. When you are living away from home, you are faced with a great deal of independence that you do not have in high school. In University you manage your own time. No one is there to tell you what needs to be done. Attending classes in high school where as University it isn’t.

This change is a huge step that a student will either adjust to or struggle with. The more prepared a person is to face the differences, the more successful they might be in the long run..

10 ways to adjust to the University life that helped me:

  1. Know what goals you want to achieve
  2. Manage your time
  3. Have a schedule on how you want to achieve the goals you have set up
  4. Know how to balance your priorities
  5. Do not be consumed by the university social life
  6. Choose your friends wisely
  7. Attend tutorials if you do not understand anything ( ask for help where you need to)
  8. Do not take your semester tests or exams for granted
  9. Never give up your dreams are within your reach
  10. Study smart!!