By: ITWeb Senior News Journalist, Sibahle Malinga.

South African schools are invited to join Tangible Africa’s new 40 Lessons programme, focused on helping learners acquire coding and robotics skills at a young age.

Tangible Africa is an engagement project of the Nelson Mandela University’s Computing Sciences Department and the Leva Foundation, with the aim of introducing coding and robotics concepts to school children.

Tangible Africa is a non-profit that strives to introduce learners to coding without the use of computers. It uses offline, cost-effective instruments that can be effective in scenarios where electricity and internet connectivity are not readily available, without needing teachers or facilitators who are qualified programmers.

According to a statement, the initiative is being rolled out to schools across the country. Term one’s Design Thinking lessons will be provided free of charge to interested schools.

Tangible Africa’s offline coding kit will be required, in order to continue with the lessons for the second term, where the offline coding games, Boats and Tanks, will be incorporated into the lessons.

Professor Jean Greyling, Tangible Africa founder and associate professor at the Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Department, explains: “By investigating the draft coding and robotics curriculum that was released in March 2021 by the Department of Basic Education, we put together offline lesson plans covering the following topics: design thinking, algorithms, computational thinking and digital citizenship.

“Two sets of 40 Lessons have been developed for foundation phase and the InterSen phases of primary school (also applicable for grades eight to nine). The 40 Lessons programme was designed with all South African schools in mind, from the rural areas to the cities. We are very aware that 16 000 out of our 25 000 schools do not have computer labs.”

Schools that already have the coding kits do not have to buy anything else. The coding kits are sold at a minimal cost and the games are played offline.

The project is sponsored by multinational chemicals company BASF.

“Education is the key to the future success of our country. BASF is committed to supporting the upliftment of educational projects that equip South Africa’s future leaders with the required skills for the fourth industrial revolution,” says Paul Mandersloot, Port Elizabeth site director of BASF’s Mobile Emissions Catalysts Division.

Term one’s “Design Thinking” programme will incorporate problem-solving in learners’ immediate communities and help build learners’ growth mind-set.

Term two is focused on coding and robotics, based on the Boats and Tanks coding apps, while term three deals with computational thinking, presented in a narrative way to help develop logical thinking.

Teachers will not teach content, but rather guide and facilitate learners’ problem-solving processes, says Tangible Africa.

Term four’s theme, “Digital Citizenship”, was developed with the South African context in mind and centres on how learners use technology and social media.

The aim is to keep learners safe online and teach them to be good digital citizens.

To find out more about Tangible Africa, contact professor Jean Greyling.


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