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In South Africa one of our biggest challenges, especially in rural spaces, is finding access points for learners to experience computer sciences. This year, GWF friend and supporter Pumza Deti from Investec, introduced our Open Learning Academy Plus Coordinator, Selby Mokoena, to a series of great games developed at Nelson Mandela University by Professor Jean Greyling and one of his students.

TANKS, RANGERS and BOATS, by Tangibl, all teach young children about the basics of coding, without the need for a computer. The games also raise awareness around social causes such as poaching and ocean conservation.

“There’s a desperate shortage of developers, not just in our country, but in the world. Unfortunately, thousands of learners in the country attend schools where they have no access to computers, so they can never choose software development as a career option,” said Professor Greyling.

In 2020, in spite of all the challenges, GWF has entered all three virtual coding tournaments organised by Professor Greyling and Nelson Mandela University:

– 36 learners (10 – 14 year-olds) registered to take part in the first virtual tournament that took place in May 2020

– 78 students registered to take part in the second (Mandela Day) virtual tournament that took place in July

– 49 students registered to take part in the last (Heritage Day) virtual tournament that took place in September

Our team spent the R3000 prize from the first tournament on the RANGER TANKS school kit. This pilot then led us to purchasing an additional four more school kits to accommodate all of our five campuses in Mpumalanga.

By the time learners reach the last level of the games, they have been taught coding principals such as ‘for loop’, ‘while loop’, ‘if statement’ and optimisation. All of these are the basic concepts taught to first-year computer science students.

As usual – with the help of our team, our friends from around the world, and from South African innovators – we’re reimagining education here in rural Mpumalanga.

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