Lenovo, DUT unite to advance coding, robotics skills
PC vendor Lenovo SA, in partnership with the Durban University of Technology (DUT), has launched the Robogirl 2022 programme aimed at preparing young female learners for the fourth industrial revolution and beyond.
This comes amid calls to equip local youth, particularly young girls, with the skills to respond to the demands and opportunities of a technology-immersed future.
According to Lenovo, the programme will see over 120 girls from 15 schools in grades 10 and 11 from the eThekwini area − particularly from historically disadvantaged communities − being exposed to and taught coding and robotics skills.
It will also culminate in a competition between schools, which will allow the various teams to witness their peers’ innovation and different approaches to the same challenge, says the company.
Yugen Naidoo, GM of Lenovo Southern Africa, says: “Both in South Africa and indeed around the globe, men continue to outnumber women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics ﬁelds, particularly technical ﬁelds, such as engineering and computer science.
“Lenovo is extremely passionate about upskilling women and female learners in the technology arena and helping to bridge this gender gap. We believe the most innovative solutions can’t be created without diverse perspectives, and therefore we are investing in such programmes.”
The launch comes just ahead of the new South African coding and robotics curriculum, which recognises that computer science, computer programming and languages need to be components of a basic education.
The Department of Basic Education said in August that its coding and robotics curriculum pilot in select grades is “progressing well”.
The department resumed the pilot project this year, after it was forced to halt it as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For its Robogirl 2022 programme, Lenovo is working with the DUT’s Department of Information and Technology, focusing on empowering under-represented communities with access to technology and STEM education.
Ebrahim Asmal, senior lecturer at DUT’s Department of Information Technology and programme coordinator, comments: “There is a gender disparity in the STEM workforce, as well as at higher education across the globe. Decreasing the gender disparity in STEM fields will provide more opportunity for women to generate fair income, as well as encourage professional and productive environments for women.
“Not only this, but the engineering industry can also tangibly benefit from an increase in gender and racial diversity because a workforce made up of varying genders and minorities creates team dynamics conducive for better problem-solving, produces better overall business management, and reflects today’s increasingly differentiated customer base, all of which leads to improved business performance.”
Naidoo adds: “At Lenovo, with programmes like Robogirl 2022 and others, we aim to play our part in helping to address this gender disparity, and let young girls and women see for themselves the possibilities of entering the IT space as a career and be empowered to enter the jobs of the future.
“We look forward to seeing the short-term and indeed longer-term positive results of our investment in Robogirl 2022 and wish the Durban University of Technology and all the learners on the programme every success.”