South African learners, especially those attending under-resourced schools have preciouslittle opportunity to engage with 21st Century tech learning. While their counterparts in manyother countries are engaged with coding and robotics from primary school years, SouthAfrica is still currently battling with launching a curriculum. In essence, this lack means thata generation of our children haven’t had the chance to develop the skills most needed byour changing 4IR world.
However, learners from twelve schools in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces enteredthe country’s first goIT Challenge to come up with app ideas that could change the world forthe better. A technology awareness programme of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), thegoIT Challenge has been designed to inspire the workforce of the future. Over more than adecade, the TCS goIT challenge has been rolled out in North and South America, Asia,Australia, the UK and Europe.
Partnering with STEM education specialist,SakhikamvaFoundation,TCS brought the innovative 21st Century learning programme to South Africa.393 learners, from nine high schools and three primary schools engaged in the programmewhich involved teams coming up with ideas for apps that can help solve real-life problems.
Set in the context of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), thelearners, who are from disadvantaged communities, grappled with the question of howscience and technology could help to solve challenges that have real impacts on their lives.TheTCS goIT Challenge, ran from October into November, culminating in a virtual judgingevent which took place last week.
The winning high school team was made up of Grade 9 –11 learners from Goodwood College in Cape Town. The team of four took top honours withtheir app called ‘Tech-U-cation’, under the SDG theme of Quality Education. Their appprovides free textbooks, mathematics tutorials and career advice for those not sure whichpathsthey’d like to pursue after school.
A team of four Grade 7 learners, from De Wavaren Primary in Ruyterwacht, won first placein the Primary School category, with their app called ‘Baunk It’. As part of the SDG theme ofNo Poverty, they created an app to help provide shelter to those in need, either who areabout to be evicted from their homes or to assist the homeless. Anyone in need of a place tostay, can register on the app and Baunk It will provide shelter options, relevant totheuser’sGPS location.
Nikhil Dabhole, HR Head of TCS South Africa says, “As an IT service provider, the goITChallenge is close to our hearts. It’s an opportunity for these schools, which traditionallyhave had few resources to build 4IR skills, to get their learners, educators, parents and theircommunity at large involved in an exciting, relatable and relevant tech educationprogramme.
The goIT Challenge will strengthen their communities today, by empoweringtheir own digital innovators of tomorrow.”Past goIT Challenges have resulted in the development of remarkable apps by students who
see the challenges in their communities and grapple with how situations can be improved.Examples include a helping hands location app that connects vulnerable people such asseniors to young people who can help them with shopping and chores; and a sustainableliving app that enables a community to buy and sell more responsibly, rating the carbon footprints, ethical production values and resource use of a wide range of products.
This was an opportunity for South African learners to unleash their creativity and ingenuityinthe country’s first TCS goIT Challenge. Twelve teams of learners got to present their appideas to a team of judges, who choose the top three in each category.The challengeincluded four in-depth training sessions and ongoing mentoring, whichled up toashark-tank-style entrepreneurial pitch event which was held via ZOOM. As they progressedthrough the programme, learners developed prototypes of their ideas on paper and used theMIT App Inventor in a hands-on experience of how science, technology, engineering andmathematics intersect with our daily lives.
Founder of Sakhikamva Foundation, Fatima Jakoet says, “Children and young people are allnatural-born scientists, full of curiosity and problem-solving abilities. All they need is thechance; knowledge and resources to come up with world-changing solutions. We aredelighted that TCS has brought the goIT Challenge to South Africa, and we are thrilled topartner with them to launch the first programme in the schools where we work with fantasticeducators and principals dedicated to 4IR learning. If we want our South Africancommunities to achieve the milestones of sustainable living, we must engage our schoolchildren now in the development goals, and let them be change agents while they arebuilding their 21st Century skills.”
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