Africa Code Week makes its debut in Nelson Mandela Bay

OCTOBER 19, 2016

Learners from five under-resourced schools are part of Nelson Mandela Bay’s first ever Africa Code Week taking place between 17 – 21 October 2016.

The opportunity to combine mathematics with a vibrant digital environment has been given to some 140 learners in grades 8 -10 from Uitenhage and Despatch schools, as they participate in the weeklong Africa Code Week. Hosted by Uitenhage-based Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) Science and Technology Centre, learners from Molly Blackburn, Limekhaya, Marymount, V.M. Kwinana and Uitenhage high schools are being taught how to code via an application called Scratch.

Initiated last year by enterprise software company SAP, the Galway Education Centre and Cape Town Science Centre; Africa Code Week aims to bridge the technological divide in under developed African communities by driving digital literacy through the teaching of code. Code, a set of instructions computers system require to function, is a feature in the development of applications and websites.

“We are excited to be the first host of Africa Code Week in the Eastern Cape,” said Chris McCartney, Head of Curriculum and Facilities at the science centre. “Through this programme, not only will learners’ problem solving and analytical reasoning be enhanced; but their interest to harness coding as a skill could shape their future professional development.”

Physical science teacher, Nelisa Mbebe, who accompanied her learners from Molly Blackburn High School said: “I am surprised at how quickly and effortlessly our learners are grasping the whole concept of code. Considering I first learnt to use a computer at 19, I can now see that tackling digital literacy from the early ages of 12 gives a chance to children from our township schools to be part of the innovators of tomorrow.”

The NMB Science and Technology Centre is an initiative of the Uitenhage Despatch Development Initiative (UDDI). It offers learner and educator support programmes focused on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The facility boasts computer and science labs; and exhibitions in transport, energy, momentum, game zone, life sciences, construction, communication, light and optics. The centre also runs industry-related events throughout the year and offers outreach programmes for under-resourced schools.

UDDI's Chief Executive Officer Patricia Dlamini added: "It is through programmes like Africa Code Week that we advance our commitment towards meaningful access to STEM education and resources that promise to empower the youth in Nelson Mandela Bay."

Last year, Africa Code Week trained 89,000 learners across 17 African countries, and 150,000 youth across 30 African countries are targeted for 2016.

“We are assisting to achieve this goal by teaching learners how to write their first lines of code and encouraging them to get their peers to get involved. We also plan to facilitate more code-related training workshops particularly for educators in the metro,” ends McCartney.

Photo caption: Asive Myataza, science communicator at the NMB Science and Technology Centre assisting Molly Blackburn learners with code activities. She is one of the 6 Africa Code Week facilitators who went through a series of coding lessons to become equipped with the teaching process.