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#Coding4Mandela to see 10K learners tackling coding

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 14 Jul 2023

Nelson Mandela University and its non-profit partners − Tangible Africa and Leva Foundation − are gearing up to host youth in the #Coding4Mandela global coding tournament on Mandela Day, 18 July.

According to a statement, the physical event will see about 10 000 learners from across 70 sites in Africa and abroad (Ireland, Germany and England) participate in the #Coding4Mandela event, themed “Cultivating the coding ecosystem of the future”.

Participants include learners from Grades 6 to 9 from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, and across all nine provinces of SA. The students will use three coding apps: Rangers, Boats and Tanks.

The event honours late president Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the fight for social justice and democracy in SA and his belief in the value of education.

Professor Jean Greyling, HOD of the Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University, and her team have been instrumental in introducing coding to young people to spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

SA has a shortage of scholars pursuing STEM-related careers and the country performs poorly in international numeracy assessments, according to Nelson Mandela University.

This has led to SA battling a chronic ICT skills shortage.

Greyling notes that teaching learners how to code is a springboard for careers in science and technology, which are needed for economic growth.

“We introduce learners to coding concepts using the mobile applications − Rangers, Boats and Tanks − which also enhance 21 century skills, such as problem-solving, strategy, communication, computational thinking and group work.

“The apps have 30 levels of increasing complexity, introducing learners to various coding concepts that are taught in a first-year introductory module. The purpose of #Coding4Mandela day is for teams to complete as many levels as possible in 30 minutes,” notes Greyling.

In preparation for the day, learners have been grouped in teams of five and shown several ways to strategise and hone their skills.

While the event started as a local tournament in Gqeberha in 2018, it grew to a national event last year, with 6 000 participants from all over SA, as well as Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The anchor sponsor for the event is AWS In Communities, and other corporate sponsors include S4 Integration, VSC Solutions, MiX Telematics, SAS, BASF, National Science Week and BBD Software.

Tangible Africa will host and coordinate the various sites across SA and in other regions.

Overall winners will be determined through a virtual round involving the winning teams from all participating #Coding4Mandela sites.