16 000 youth code for Mandela, thanks in part to SA expats
TY to South Africans abroad who have helped support this initiative that not only benefits individuals but helps create a better SA…
Organisers have been blown away by the runaway success of an international tangible coding event, which was started at a few schools in Gqeberha, South Africa, only two years ago… writes Cindy Preller.
The event grew – in large part thanks to South Africans abroad who were able to donate and support the concept – and in 2022 a total of 6000 youth across Africa were encouraged to code simultaneously on Mandela Day, and the target for 2023 was set at 10 000 participants from across the globe.
However, the enthusiasm shown by learners, parents and teachers across Africa even caught the organisers by surprise with the number of participants in Tangible Africa’s #Coding4Mandela event in 2023 surpassing all expectation at 16000 participants.
Tangible Africa coding. Photos supplied
Tangible Africa Founder and Head of the Department and Associate Professor at the Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Department, Prof Jean Greyling, said 500 schools participated at 70 sites across all nine provinces as well as countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, and Tanzania.
“As Tangible Africa we are truly excited that so many learners participated in our event this year. It gives us an excellent opportunity to now follow up with tournament hosts and teachers regarding our project. Through our tangible and unplugged coding tools, we truly believe that we can make a difference in South Africa and across Africa.”
Very little online resources are needed to play the coding games, by making use of Tangible Africa’s flagship coding applications, RANGERS, BOATS and TANKS. The #Coding4Mandela event is the brainchild of the Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Department and the Leva Foundation, made possible through their engagement project Tangible Africa.
“Our vision is not only to introduce learners to coding, but to also enhance their 21st century skills such as problem solving, computational thinking, strategy, group work and communication. We want to keep on changing the narrative that low-tech interventions, rather than high-tech, are the way to make a wide impact on education on our continent,” said Greyling
He expressed appreciation for the sponsors who made it possible for the event “to be as big as it was”. The anchor sponsor for the #Coding4Mandela event this year was AWSinCommunities, supported by BASF, National Science Week, SAS, BBD, VSC Solutions, MiX Telematics, SMS Portal and S4.
One of these sponsors, S4 Integration, is a local automation and engineering company based in Gqeberha that has seen the value of the project for the continent.
“We were thrilled to join forces with the visionary Tangible Africa team and Prof Jean Greyling in their commendable efforts to introduce coding and robotics concepts to young minds across Africa. Our participation in this year’s #Coding4Mandela event underscored our unwavering commitment to empowering the youth and promoting STEM awareness, particularly in coding and robotics. Young people are the future, and we are honoured to be a part of this incredible initiative, helping create a better tomorrow through education and innovation,” said S4 Marketing Manager Gideon Smith.
One of the many highlights of the day was when President Cyril Ramaphosa spent 30 minutes with participants in Qunu.
Almost 3000 coders in KZN
Themed “Cultivating the coding ecosystem of the future” the success of the #Coding4Mandela event also involved hundreds of parents, teachers and community members who organised the tournaments at the various sites.
Kwa-Zulu Natal co-ordinator Krish Govender said almost 3000 learners in the province participated in the event. The strategy for the province was to reach out to the outlying areas to train teachers in Kokstad, Port Shepstone, KwaDukuza, Richards Bay, Ulundi, and Pinetown.
“Although it was a trek to get to some of the above zones, I was highly impressed by the interest shown by the teachers. Kits sponsored by Tangible Africa were distributed at these new sites. I was in awe of the effort made by each co-ordinator as each site sought sponsorship to ensure that learners received a meal and gifts. I was amazed to see the attitude and interest shown by learners during the tournament,” said Govender.
And this same interest and excitement in coding was experienced in other countries in Africa, one of which was Zambia. The #Coding4Mandela Co-ordinator here, Bessy Nambela, described the Zambian event as a resounding success.
“It was an incredible event that celebrated the power of coding and provided learners with an opportunity to showcase their skills. The event not only sharpened their technical skills but also created lasting memories and friendships. We believe that the event has inspired even more young minds to explore the exciting world of coding and pursue their passions.”
If you would like to support or be part of the project, contact Prof Greyling, Nelson Mandela University – 0835544183