IRDCE empowers pupils with coding skills

Crafting a bright future! Senele, standing, right, and IRDCE staff and the pupils in the lab

The University is heeding the Vice-Chancellor’s call for everyone to be prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution to avoid its adverse consequences. The University’s Institute for Rural Development and Community Engagement (IRDCE) partnered with Information Technology company, 4thIR Innovations Pty Ltd, to teach pupils from primary schools in Umlazi Township computer coding. Lessons started on 1 July 2019 and would end on 27 September 2019.

Professor Busi Nkonki-Mandleni, Director of IRDCE, said that the advance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution was inevitable and had to be prepared for. “There is already a shift in the skills that are required. As a great deal of work is going to be done by machines; the skills that will be needed for survival in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era are complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision-making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility skills. It is for this reason that IRDCE, in partnership with 4iR Innovations Pty Ltd, has embarked on piloting a Coding Project for 20 Grade 4 and 5 pupils of Umgijimi Combined School and Esphethwini Primary School who have good communication skills and curious minds.”

Professor Nkonki-Mandleni said the overall objective of the project was to expose pupils to opportunities that technology presents in order for them to pursue careers that would resonate with the skills that the Fourth Industrial Revolution would require. Pupils received lessons on computational, structural and algorithmic thinking. The expected outcomes of the project are basic programming, problem-solving, listening and improved social interaction and mathematical aptitude. Professor Nkonki-Mandleni added that the project was a pilot exercise meant to be the beginning of the bigger projects that would accommodate as many schools around Umlazi Township as possible, while also providing MUT students with an opportunity to reinforce their computational skills.

Senele Goba, the Director of 4iR Innovations Pty Ltd, said the pupils were responding very well to their technology lessons. “The pupils are very excited. It is heart-warming to see the pupils learning so fast and developing group dynamics,” said Goba, who holds an Honours degree in Computer Sciences from the University of Cape Town. Goba has vast industry experience.