In a fitting celebration of the late Nelson Mandela’s birthday, over 5 000 learners from all the South African nine provinces including from some African countries such as Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia, are today involved in exciting coding games under the tagline: ‘#Coding4Mandela’.
Approximately 45 sites have been prepared for this momentous occasion which is the brainchild of the Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Department in collaboration with the Leva Foundation. This is part of their engagement project known as Tangible Africa. Learners from Grade 6-9 who come from diverse background and different schools across the African SADC region will be playing the same offline coding game today in an attempt to raise awareness about coding.
Technology focused subjects
The department of basic education (DBE) is already piloting robotics and coding across schools in the country before it formally rolls them out as part of the curriculum for Grades R-3 in 2023. The introduction of these technology-focused subjects is part of the DBE’s master plan to reconfigure its curriculum aimed at equipping learners with 4IR skills.
Stimulating learners’ participation
Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences associate professor, Jean Greyling, said they opted for tournaments because they proved to be a very successful way of generating excitement and stimulating participation among learners and teachers. While various physical and virtual coding tournaments had been hosted since 2018, added professor Greyling, it has never been done at this magnitude. “We believe that Nelson Mandela had a great passion for children and their education. Coming from Nelson Mandela University, it is natural for us to be associated with this day,” said Greyling.
KZN takes the lead
While learners do not need any prior experience or initial background to take part in the coding game, many teachers and learners have been sharpening their skills during the school holidays. KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is the biggest participating region with around 2 600 learners expected to code at 15 different sites across Durban and the KZN Midlands.
Fairhaven Primary School headmaster and KZN #Coding4Mandela organiser, Krish Govender, said he felt challenged and excited at the same time about the event. Said Govender: “The empowerment of children and teachers with 4IR is very important and this coding game can be played in a semi-rural and remote area. It doesn’t have to stop at Mandela Day but once the coding bug bites, learners can study and pursue careers in IT. This is a small way of ensuring that our children are moving forward in the 4IR.” Govender was also instrumental in soliciting sponsorships for meals and prizes for some of the sites in KZN one of which is the historic Nelson Mandela Capture Site just outside Howick.
Sponsors for the event
The anchor sponsor for #Coding4Mandela is AWS In Communities and it is joined by various other regional sponsors including:
- the Mandela Bay Development Agency
- S4 Integration
- AWS South Africa
- MiX Telematics
- Transaction Junction and
According to organiser Susan Roberts, a teacher at Hoërskool Garsfontein in Pretoria, where learners were introduced to coding in the second term of this year, they will be joined by their peers from neighbouring areas including Mamelodi to take part in the #Coding4Mandela fun.
It is not only learners from urban areas who will be taking part as around 150 learners from seven schools in the region of Mqhekezweni in rural Eastern Cape – where the late Nelson Mandela grew up – will also be part of the #Coding4Mandela excitement. Similarly, in Nelson Mandela Bay, learners from the region are expected to start coding – with their peers from across the African region – at Fathers House Church in North End on July 18.
The most powerful tool
Prince Phikolomzi Mtirara, son of Chief Sandile Mtirara who is the grandson to the Regent King Jongintaba Dalindyebo – believed to have helped raise and educate former President Nelson Mandela – expressed excitement in participating in the #Coding4Mandela event. Said Mtirara: “Tata Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. We are humbled and appreciate this opportunity. Technology and innovation give hope to children and the communities of the rural areas.”