South African learners, especially those attending under-resourced schools have precious little opportunity to engage with 21st Century tech learning. While their counterparts in many other countries are engaged with coding and robotics from primary school years, South Africa is still currently battling with launching a curriculum. In essence, this lack means that a generation of our children haven’t had the chance to develop the skills most needed by our changing 4IR world.
However, learners from twelve schools in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces entered the country’s first goIT Challenge to come up with app ideas that could change the world for the better. A technology awareness programme of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the goIT Challenge has been designed to inspire the workforce of the future. Over more than a decade, the TCS goIT challenge has been rolled out in North and South America, Asia, Australia, the UK and Europe. Partnering with STEM education specialist, Sakhikamva Foundation, TCS brought the innovative 21st Century learning programme to South Africa.
393 learners, from nine high schools and three primary schools engaged in the programme which involved teams coming up with ideas for apps that can help solve real-life problems. Set in the context of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the learners, who are from disadvantaged communities, grappled with the question of how science and technology could help to solve challenges that have real impacts on their lives.
The TCS goIT Challenge, ran from October into November, culminating in a virtual judging event which took place last week. The winning high school team was made up of Grade 9 – 11 learners from Goodwood College in Cape Town. The team of four took top honours with their app called ‘Tech-U-cation’, under the SDG theme of Quality Education. Their app provides free textbooks, mathematics tutorials and career advice for those not sure which paths they’d like to pursue after school.
A team of four Grade 7 learners, from De Wavaren Primary in Ruyterwacht, won first place in the Primary School category, with their app called ‘Baunk It’. As part of the SDG theme of No Poverty, they created an app to help provide shelter to those in need, either who are about to be evicted from their homes or to assist the homeless. Anyone in need of a place to stay, can register on the app and Baunk It will provide shelter options, relevant to the user’s GPS location.
Nikhil Dabhole, HR Head of TCS South Africa says, “As an IT service provider, the goIT Challenge is close to our hearts. It’s an opportunity for these schools, which traditionally have had few resources to build 4IR skills, to get their learners, educators, parents and their community at large involved in an exciting, relatable and relevant tech education programme. The goIT Challenge will strengthen their communities today, by empowering their own digital innovators of tomorrow.”
Past goIT Challenges have resulted in the development of remarkable apps by students who see the challenges in their communities and grapple with how situations can be improved. Examples include a helping hands location app that connects vulnerable people such as seniors to young people who can help them with shopping and chores; and a sustainable living app that enables a community to buy and sell more responsibly, rating the carbon footprints, ethical production values and resource use of a wide range of products.
This was an opportunity for South African learners to unleash their creativity and ingenuity in the country’s first TCS goIT Challenge. Twelve teams of learners got to present their app ideas to a team of judges, who choose the top three in each category.The challenge included four in-depth training sessions and ongoing mentoring, which led up to a shark-tank-style entrepreneurial pitch event which was held via ZOOM. As they progressed through the programme, learners developed prototypes of their ideas on paper and used the MIT App Inventor in a hands-on experience of how science, technology, engineering and mathematics intersect with our daily lives.
Founder of Sakhikamva Foundation, Fatima Jakoet says, “Children and young people are all natural-born scientists, full of curiosity and problem-solving abilities. All they need is the chance; knowledge and resources to come up with world-changing solutions. We are delighted that TCS has brought the goIT Challenge to South Africa, and we are thrilled to partner with them to launch the first programme in the schools where we work with fantastic educators and principals dedicated to 4IR learning. If we want our South African communities to achieve the milestones of sustainable living, we must engage our school children now in the development goals, and let them be change agents while they are building their 21st Century skills.”