Can hip-hop solve our education crisis?


You won’t find trick-onometry in stores or online. But maybe you should. It’s the hottest mixtape with the kids of Eben Donges High School in Cape Town. And pumping up the volume during class isn’t frowned upon – it’s a pre-requisite for getting down with maths teacher Kurt Minnaar’s lessons. He’s putting traditional teaching methods into a head-spin by using hip-hop to coach kids through their times-tables.

Minnaar struggled with maths when he was in school, at the time thinking that he lacked ability. But later on he realised that the fault lay in a fundamental institutional oversight: the assumption that all children learn the same way. It’s a problem that still plagues our education system, leaving many kids feeling academically inadequate when they can’t seem to grasp concepts or pick up skills well enough. Minnaar’s negative experience with numbers in the classroom prompted him to re-inspect the equation and find an alternative teaching strategy. Combing his passion for music and dance, he tapped into the creative side of his brain to find a back-door into the analytical. Minnaar’s solution? Integrating hip-hop and mathematics in his lessons.

His pupils bound into class, excited to learn. And their energy never drops. They learn while standing in unison to break it down to their teacher’s beat. For the sceptic, their marks have improved under Minnaar’s expansive approach. This is not to say that the traditional way has no value. Many children respond to the straightforward method. The message is simply that we need to be open-minded about how we view education. Instead of drawing hard lines for our children to fall between, we need to search for ways to coax the potential out of each and every one of them. Who says South Africa’s next pioneering neuroscientist won’t burst into the spotlight with rhythm to her step?