Johannesburg, 5 July 2024: As South Africa takes bold steps into the future by integrating coding and robotics into its national curriculum, Sifiso EdTech, in partnership with MTN, is thrilled to announce the resounding success of the 2024 Sifiso EdTech Winter Coding and Robotics Holiday Programme. From 1 to 5 July 2024, 147 enthusiastic learners, more than 70% of which are girls, embarked on their first exhilarating journey into the world of coding and robotics at Future Nation Schools’ Fleurhof and Lyndhurst Campuses.

In a week filled with innovation, creativity and excitement, 147 young pioneers experienced the thrill of transforming ideas into tangible creations. The programme, designed to inspire and equip learners with vital 21st-century skills, offered an immersive and hands-on approach to learning through activities that included:

  • Building and Programming Robots: Learners dived into the basics of mechanical design and software programming, bringing their robotic creations to life.
  • Engaging in Daily Competitions: Each day presented new challenges, fostering a competitive yet collaborative environment where skills were tested and honed.
  • Celebrating Achievements: The programme concluded with a special exhibition and graduation ceremony, where learners’ accomplishments were celebrated by their peers, instructors and parents as participants proudly presented their innovative projects, demonstrating their newfound knowledge and creativity

Xoliswa Mahlangu, Head of Digital Learning and Technology at Sifiso Learning Group, shared her reflections on the programme:

“This week has been nothing short of transformative. The gazetting of coding and robotics into our national curriculum underscores the importance of these skills, and seeing our learners embrace this new knowledge with such enthusiasm has been inspiring. For many of the participants, this was their first taste of the limitless possibilities in the fields of coding and robotics. Witnessing the enthusiasm and progress of these learners has been truly inspiring. We are immensely proud of the creativity and determination shown our learners have shown and are grateful to our sponsors MTN SA for support initiatives like this, which are crucial in fostering innovation and equipping our youth with the skills needed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A special mention of thanks also goes to the 39 students from the University of Pretoria (UP) who led the charge of teaching the learners as part of their joint community-based project (JCP), a compulsory community engagement module for all graduates in UP’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology.

Mahlangu also emphasised the importance of increasing female representation in STEM fields:

“When I was growing up, there were very few female tech role models – let alone African ones – to look up to, and unfortunately, women are still heavily underrepresented in STEM careers. Having 70% of our participants be girls is a testament to the growing interest and potential of young women in STEM. It’s crucial that we continue to provide these opportunities and support to ensure that more women enter and thrive in these fields. Diversity in STEM not only drives innovation but also ensures that the solutions we develop are inclusive and representative of our society.”

Adds Arthur Mukhuvha, GM: MTN SA Foundation: “The MTN Foundation’s participation in the Sifiso EdTech Winter Coding and Robotics Holiday Programme is a testament to our belief in the incredible potential of our young learners. By introducing them to coding and robotics at an early age, we are equipping them with the essential skills needed for the future. It’s especially encouraging to see such a high participation rate among girls, reflecting the growing interest and capability of young women in STEM. Initiatives like this are crucial in driving technological innovation and ensuring a diverse and inclusive future in tech.”

Speaking about her experience over the week Ntwenhle Mhlongo, a grade 8 pupil from Curro Aurora had this to say about the programme: “Embracing the challenge of coding and robotics transformed my disinterest for the subject into passion and opened the door to new friendships and endless possibilities.’

Leruo Motswedi, a grade 9 pupil Hoërskool Ells Park, and Thando Vilakazi, a grade 8 from Parktown High School for Girls echoed these thoughts: “Before coming for the programme, we thought coding and robotics was difficult and honestly boring but after a few days of coding and building cool things, we’ve come to understand how fun and beneficial it can actually be”.

The Sifiso EdTech Coding and Robotics Holiday Programme has not only provided a platform for learners to develop essential 21st-century skills but has also ignited a passion for technology that will continue to grow. The successful completion of this programme highlights the importance of early exposure to STEM education and the impact it can have on young learners.