Nelson Mandela University: Coding unites learners across Africa

In a first of its kind for the African region, over 5 000 learners from all nine provinces in South Africa as well as African countries, including Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia, will be #Coding4Mandela on July 18.
Around 45 sites are being prepared for this annual event, spearheaded by the Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Department and the Leva Foundation as part of their engagement project known as Tangible Africa.

Grade 6 – 9 learners from diverse backgrounds and different schools across the African region will all be playing the same offline coding game on Mandela Day, in an effort to create more awareness about coding.

“Tournaments have proven a very successful way to create excitement and participation amongst learners and teachers,” said Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Associate Professor, Jean Greyling, adding that while various physical and virtual coding tournaments had been hosted since 2018, it has never been done at this magnitude.

While learners do not need any initial background to play the coding game, many teachers and learners have been practicing during the school holidays. The biggest participating region is KwaZulu-Natal, with around 2 600 learners expected to code at 15 different sites across Durban and the KZN Midlands.

KZN #Coding4Mandela organiser and Fairhaven Primary School headmaster, Krish Govender, said he felt challenged to “go big” with this event.

“The empowerment of children and teachers with 4IR is very important and this coding game can be played in a semi-rural and remote area. It doesn’t have to stop at Mandela Day but once the coding bug bites, learners can study and pursue careers in IT. This is a small way of ensuring that our children are moving forward in the 4IR,” said Govender.

Govender also approached sponsors for meals and selected prizes for some of the KZN sites, of which one site is the historic Nelson Mandela Capture Site outside Howick.

The anchor sponsor for #Coding4Mandela is AWS In Communities and various other regional sponsors have also come on board including the Mandela Bay Development Agency, S4 Integration, AWS South Africa, MiX Telematics, Transaction Junction and Cennergi.

From Pretoria to Mqhekezweni

In Pretoria children from Hoërskool Garsfontein, where learners had been introduced to coding in the second term this year, will be joined by invited learners from surrounding areas including Mamelodi to join in the #Coding4Mandela fun, according to organiser Susan Roberts, a teacher at Hoërskool Garsfontein.

In stark contrast to the city streets of South Africa’s capital, around 150 learners from seven schools in the region of Mqhekezweni in rural Eastern Cape, where former President Nelson Mandela grew up, will also be #Coding4Mandela.

Prince Phikolomzi Mthikrakra, son of Chief Sandile Mthikrakra who is the grandson to the Regent King Jongintaba Dalindyebo (known to have raised and educated former President Nelson Mandela), said it was an honour to participate in the #Coding4Mandela event.

“Tata Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. We are humbled and appreciate this opportunity. Technology and innovation give hope to children and the communities of the rural areas,” said Mthikrakra.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, learners from the region are expected to start coding – with their peers from across the African region – at Fathers House Church in North End on July 18.

“We believe that Nelson Mandela had a great passion for children and their education. Coming from Nelson Mandela University, it is natural for us to be associated with this day,” concluded Greyling.