A shortage of computer scientists and an even more serious need for coding and software development facilities in the country’s low income areas has prompted innovation in reaching these disadvantaged communities. The problem and the challenges to solve this were extensively discussed in a joint IITPSA and EngineerIT webinar. From the discussion it became clear that the problem is country wide and not limited to low income communities.
Nelson Mandela University professor in computing sciences, Prof. Jean Grayling, is using the TANKS and BOATS coding apps to introduce coding to learners who do not have access to PCs. It uses tangible tokens and image recognition on mobile phones to assist with teaching coding. To date he has reached around 25 000 learners through direct workshops, and distributed coding kits to nearly 500 schools across the country. In the webinar, Prof. Greyling shared his experiences.
Prof Andre Calitz, who was the second speaker, is involved with the South African Computer Accreditation Board (SACAB) and the Southern African Computer Lectures' Association (SACLA). He shared his ideas on how the IITPSA and the SACAB can accredit IT related degree and diploma programmes in South Africa. He also shared his ideas on introducing a recognised Certificate in Computer Science Teaching for South African IT teachers.
During the discussion it became quite clear that South African education is in crisis, with over 23 000 teacher vacancies and the huge lack of skilled IT teachers. Urgent action is needed to train more IT teachers and to fill these vacancies. Both professors Greyling and Calitz called on industry to become involved. Industry worldwide needs more engineers and scientists and the basis of qualifying people in these professions starts at primary school where the foundation for problem solving and coding is laid. It is all very well to develop an extensive curriculum but before implementing it, teachers need to be trained and adequate facilities need to be created at schools”, they said.
The webinar was a real eye opener, and worth watching. You can access it here. The password is NiVzeI58Jbsi.