Veteran Cape Town educator John Volmink refuses to sit on his laurels, off to US to teach

Professor John Volmink. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus

Professor John Volmink. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus

Published Dec 12, 2022


Cape Town - At an age where many would be content to rest on their laurels and look back at a busy life well spent, one of South Africa’s most influential educators in the field of maths over the last three decades, Professor John Volmink, is headed to the US to continue teaching.

Athlone-born Volmink, whose services have been sought by every post-apartheid minister of education whenever they needed someone to play a leading role in the transformation of the country’s education, is heading off to Cornell University’s Institute of African development to work on a book about Ubuntu.

This emerged during an interview on the sidelines of a farewell lunch hosted in his honour by the board and staff of the Cornerstone Institute, where he served as chief executive and principal for five years and continues as a board member and honorary president.

Volmink – who counts former Finance minister Trevor Manuel and current Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter as former pupils of his at the then Peninsula Technikon (now CPUT) – began his academic career at UWC.

He started his career as a high school teacher and later became the head of maths at the Peninsula Technikon. He also held various other teaching positions including the University of Western Cape, University of Cape Town and Cornell University.

Speaking about what inspired him to get into the education field and to remain in it as long as he has, Volmink said he was driven by the fact that his parents, who did not have more than a primary school-level education, told him education was the best gift they could bestow on him.

“If that was the best gift they could give then it was up to me to give the same gift to others.”

In 2018 the financial aid committee of Cornerstone Institute set up the Angie and John Volmink Scholarship in recognition of Volmink and his late wife Angie’s work in the higher education sector.