Stakeholders are enhancing collaborations to fast-track digital skills development among learners in South Africa, in view of the future success of youth depending on ability to understand and use technology effectively.
The collaborations come at a time South African youth are facing a difficult future amid unemployment and a majority of students dropping out before reaching matric.
Corlé de Villiers, a teacher in Johannesburg, said another sad reality was that the country was lagging more developed countries in both understanding and use of technology, yet coding was an imperative language in the near future.
“There’s a real need to leverage technology to improve the classroom experience for teachers and learners alike,” de Villiers said.
De Villers believes it is essential to foster a love for technology among learners and teachers alike and so bring the digital revolution to the classroom.
The educator said they were fortunate their school – Unika Primary – is situated in a middle-class neighbourhood and enjoys the support of parents who can contribute time and funds to ensure adequate technology training for their children.
“We would love to expand our classes to some of the under-served schools in the nearby area to ensure the benefits that technology brings to the classroom is shared with as many learners as possible,” de Villiers said.
Riaan van der Bergh, Education Technology Manager and Deputy Provincial Manager: Gauteng at the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS), echoed her views.
He said from 2018, every schoolchild would have been born in the new millennium while the Grade R learners of 2018 would only finish school in 2030.
Thus, the working world would be vastly different.
“It is therefore critical that we start exploring how technology can be used to make learning more personal, more interesting, and more suited to equipping today’s learners with the skills they’ll need to succeed tomorrow,” van der Bergh said.
Adding that it is insufficient to rely on traditional teaching tools to equip learners, he hailed the upcoming SAP Africa Code Week.
The initiative enables teachers and learners in Johannesburg to collaborate with those in Algeria, Kenya, and Mauritius.
“This creates a continent-wide network of digital skills development that is fast-tracking African learners’ entry into the digital workforce,” van der Bergh said.
Africa Code Week has enabled over 500 000 young Africans to learn coding basics over the past two years and enabled thousands of teachers to make coding an integral part of the school curriculum.
Taking place from October 18-25, the 2017 iteration of Africa Code Week aims to train another 500 000 youth across 35 African countries.
SAP and Google have implemented digital skills development initiatives across the African continent.
Google has made $20 million in grants available over the next five years to support non-profits working to improve lives across Africa.
In September, Google awarded $1,5 million to local education initiative Siyavula to assist African pupils with preparations of their end-of-year exams.
The grant will provide free access to Google’s online learning platform to 150 000 low-income learners in South Africa and an additional 150 000 learners in Nigeria.
“We want to demonstrate how powerful this can be by providing learners with access to this tool during their preparation for exams,” Nick Cain, Google.org’s Portfolio Manager for Education, said.