#Coding4Mandela event exceeds target participants

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 16 Aug 2023
President Cyril Ramaphosa shakes the hand of a young coder in Qunu.
President Cyril Ramaphosa shakes the hand of a young coder in Qunu.

Nelson Mandela University and its non-profit partners − Tangible Africa and Leva Foundation −say the #Coding4Mandela tournament was a success, with over 16 000 participants.

The event organisers had anticipated about 10 000 learners would participate in the physical event, which took place last month on Mandela Day. Thousands of learners from across 70 sites in Africa raced for the top prize, under the theme: “Cultivating the coding ecosystem of the future”.

The enthusiasm shown by learners, parents and teachers across the globe caught the organisers by surprise, with participants exceeding the target. They included learners from grades six to nine from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, and across all nine provinces of SA.

The event caught the attention of president Cyril Ramaphosa, who was in Qunu – where he commemorated Mandela Day and encouraged learners to continue coding for a better future.

Professor Jean Greyling, Tangible Africa founder, who is also head of the department and associate professor at the Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Department, says over 500 schools participated in the tournament.

“As Tangible Africa, we are truly excited that so many learners participated in our event this year. 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. Through our tangible and unplugged coding tools, we truly believe we can make a difference in SA and across Africa,” explains Greyling.

The #Coding4Mandela event is the brainchild of the Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Department and the Leva Foundation, made possible through their Tangible Africa engagement project.

The coding tournament was started with a few learners in Gqeberha two years ago.

In 2022, the event grew to a total of 6 000 youth across Africa, who were encouraged to code simultaneously on Mandela Day.

Few online resources are needed to play the coding games, by making use of Tangible Africa’s flagship coding applications, Rangers, Boats and Tanks, according to Greyling.

KwaZulu-Natal co-ordinator Krish Govender notes that almost 3 000 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 learners received a meal and gifts. I was amazed to see the attitude and interest shown by learners during the tournament,” notes Govender.