Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Gogo Makhotha hosts a Coding and Robotics session

Gogo Makhotha hosts a Coding and Robotics session

Gogo Makhotha, a 93-year-old citizen from Maserijini Farm near Lothair, will turn 94 on January 10. She was born in Badplaas and married the late Mr. David Makhotha. She had lived on this farm for over 60 years. On December 26, 2022, her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Nomzamo Makhotha, request that she host a coding and robotics workshop for the Maserijini and Lothair farm village children. "Mine angati lutfo my kind, nine nifundzile phela yentani msebenti wenu," Gogo Makhotha said, claiming that she knows nothing and that because you are educated, you can do the work. She never hesitated to extend the invitation to her neighbors who came to see her on Christmas Day. "Nitfumele bantwana kusasa, makoti utobafundzisa," she was heard saying. On the 26th of December, the community children arrived as expected. Despite the fact that it rained in the morning, the children were eager to learn about coding and robotics.

Coding and robotics are relatively new subjects in South Africa. The President, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced it in his state of the nation address in 2019, and a few schools were identified to pilot the subject in 2020. The Minister of Basic Education announced in 2022 that all schools will fully implement the coding and robotics subject in grades R through 7, with other grades, such as grade 8 and 9, continuing with the pilot.

The workshop got off to a great start at Gogo Makhotha, with two sessions introduced to the children. The first session was about the Boat app, and the interface of the app was laid out on the ground in a grid, and children had to move two robots according to instructions given by facilitators to two groups of children. One group quickly named their robot Viase (Female), while the other named theirs Ace (Male), and they both used their group mate to follow their instructions to reach the other robots.

The second session focused on manipulating the Tanks App with seven smartphones and seven sets of Tanks puzzle pieces designed by Nelson Mandela University. After the first few levels, the children had to play the Tanks game independently by following a few basic instructions from the facilitators. The Tanks game has 35 levels, starting with simple steps and progressing to levels that are more complex. The power of Tanks, with its embedded problem-solving skills, inspires the children to keep going until they reach the next level. "We'll get it right this time, let's try again," some kids said. "We are now in level 7 and ready to use the red puzzle," said Lindo Zulu, one of Gogo Makhotha's great grandchildren. The red puzzle is the Shoot Puzzle, which clears the path by to removing obstacles in the app so that the Tanker can reach the Star.

The coding and robotics session was full of joy and laughter, and the children were special here at Gogo Makhotha's house. They prepared special hot dogs and cold drinks with the help of other older grandchildren, and Gogo Makhotha gave them sweets.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Mpumalanga Tangible Coders

I've been coding since 2016, and one of my main challenges has been reaching as many kids as possible, but that wasn't always possible because many schools don't have computer labs, and devices like desktops, laptops, and tablets were fantasies for many schools in my district.

Some schools will receive old unused desktop computers disguised as contributions. Because the schools with devices were not connected to the internet, connectivity, which was necessary by some coding sessions, reduced my energy levels. One extraordinary, unexpected day occurred when I feared the Mpumalanga ICT Club of my dreams would not survive the Covid-19 trials. I needed something to get me through it, especially after the President announced that coding and robotics will be added as formal subjects. I wanted to do more. 
I discovered about unplugged coding via Prof Jean Greyling's articles and reached out to him without hesitation; he hooked me up. You know what, I was overjoyed, and my sister Ntombizodwa and my daughter Nomzamo shone the brightness through my eyes as they touched those coding tokens of Tanks. We were all taken aback by the app's image recognition magic, as well as the game's inherent problem-solving and teamwork skills. Wait until I engulf you with all of the reactions we received from each child who touched the same tokens. "Mem, I'm winning," one grade 3 pupil said in the middle of the workshop at Benzangani Primary School. We were able to reach more schools,  than what we expected such as ITsoseng, Rankaila, Phopholo, Bazani in Mpumalanga and Tiamoko and Tlamaganyo Primary School in Soshanguve.
I tried my best to explain the coding games on the local radio stations and in the local media, but it only made sense when journalists came to witness the largest coding competition ever held in our province, the Mandela Day Coding Tournament. 
It had a great impact, made people smile, and told amazing stories all around South Africa and beyond. We were counted in and are still waiting for additional major events. We, the Mpumalanga ICT Club and the interns from the Leva Foundation, have established ourselves as Mpumalanga's Tangible Coders.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Coding is a new language, every child deserves to be fluent

Coding is gaining popularity in our classrooms. Although not all schools were chosen to pilot the Coding and Robotics Curriculum, many schools accepted the challenge of incorporating the topic as a non-examable in their curriculum, making it fashionable to all children.
Ms. Nomusa Keninda, the "Coding Queen," who is also the creator of the Professional Learning Community - Mpumalanga ICT Club, visits schools on a regular basis to teach Coding together with Leva Foundation interns who are Coding Evangelists for the Nelson Mandela University Computing School.

"Our goal is to ensure that learners are aware of, comprehend, and have coding skills; in this sense, we are stating that all learners deserve to be fluent in Coding because it is a new language." Ms. Keninda claims

Schools in KwaGuqa townships like Khayalethu, Vuma, Siphendulwe, Moruti Makuse, and Duvha Primary School have been blessed to host the Leva Foundation Coding Project using Unplugged Coding Apps such as TANKS and Boats. Other schools in the Gembokspruit area, as well as two in Soshanguve, were included to the project.

The Mpumalanga ICT Club has been involved in the Africa Code Week Campaign and the Hour of Code since 2016. "It took me a while to understand and learn the coding languages, especially Scratch, but I did it because I am passionate about digital technology, and now I am expanding my arms to reach teachers and these kids."
Ms. Nomusa Keninda maintains numerous portfolios within and outside the Mpumalanga Department of Education; she has been recognized by Microsoft as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Fellow, she is a Trailblazer Award Winner 2021 in South Africa, and Scratch Coding Judge, to name a few. Her passion for coding is spreading to the most disadvantaged schools in the Nkangala District. She has visited schools at Phopolo, Loding, Itsoseng, Rankaila, Jabulani, Benzangani, Morelig, Bazani schools and many others to teach coding and spread her passion for coding.
Like a queen bee, she has a big impact at the schools she has visited, and the kids adore her. Ms. Keninda was also named a "Coding Pioneer" by the MEC for Education in his budget and policy speech 2021 to the Mpumalanga Legislature.

On November 24, 2022, the club will organize another coding session for students at Makhathini Primary School in Mhluzi township. This will be the closing ceremony of Africa Code Week 2022, with over 120 students from various grades participating in the coding activities planned for the day. "It is not the end of the coding year; we are also preparing to commemorate Computer Science Education Week 2022 by hosting the Hour of Code, which is the global coding campaign; we invite schools to join by keeping learners in schools from December 1st to 9th, 2022." The coding interns will be teaching youngsters to code wherever they are in our communities.
The Minister of Basic Education declared a few weeks ago that beginning in 2023, all schools will provide Coding and Robotics lessons in grades R - 3 and 7.

"My experience dealing with children in schools has made me fall in love with the teaching profession and children," coding evangelist Duduzile Mashinini remarked.
Coding skills assist these youngsters in developing the computational thinking skills required for twenty-first century learning. They work together on activities, communicate, lead, and add creative components into their learning.

Monday, August 22, 2022

DigiGirlz Workshop, a Powerful weapon for girls' Dreams

DigiGirlz Workshop that was recently hosted by the Mpumalanga ICT Club Founder, Ms Nomusa Keninda on the 13 August at Nkangala TVET College, -Witbank Campus, I would say "It was empowering, fun, amazing work and brings hope to the nation and a powerful weapon for girls' dreams" as the saying goes "When you educate a woman, you educate a nation."

The DigiGirlz Workshop is a program that aims to encourage young girls to pursue STEM subjects in school and learn coding and robotics. Attendees of the workshop make connections with young female professionals in STEM fields in order to encourage them to study Math and Science.

"When I was a young girl, I did many household chores such as fetching water far from the river and gathering wood for fire because I grew up in a small village in Limpopo... but I did well in Mathematics and Science and received a bursary to study Bachelor of Science, Honours, MHSc, and PhD in Science, all of which I earned with distinctions. Dr. Edith Phalane informed the thirty girls attending the DigiGirlz workshop that she is now a Research Manager Specialist at the SAMRC/UJ Pan African Centre for Epidemics Research via a zoom platform during her motivational speech.

Suddenly, following Dr. Edith's address. The computer lab was filled with the girls' joy as a sign of confirmation for hope, dedication, and gratitude that they were fortunate to meet her because she rose from a humble beginning to her current position.

When one of the girls was asked about her overall impression of the DigiGirlz workshop on that day, she responded, "It was fun." "Yes, it has inspired me a great deal; today I learned that you can be successful even if you come from a poor background; I read a book about a poor family who struggled a great deal, but in the end, their lives turned out well. I would like to encourage young leaders to pursue their dreams and not give up because life is meaningless without them.

Sharon Khoza- STEM Facilitator
Sharon Khoza, a STEM and 4IR Facilitator from Siyafunda CTC in Midrand, came with her team to introduce the girls to coding using the Scratch platform. These girls were extremely fortunate to meet Sharon Khoza. She demonstrated how simple it is to create a game and animation using Scratch. This is what the girls said after creating their games successfully.

"Today's workshop was fantastic, I'm glad I learned something new, and I'm glad they taught us how to code, to create your own game, app, and story through the computer."

"It's incredible to know that even girls can do interesting things that boys can do; it's fascinating to know that we can do it"

"It's incredible that you have the chance to create your own music, games, animation, and other things. I am interested in animation production.

Ms. Florence Sibiya, a recently appointed unplugged coding evangelist at Nelson Mandela University, along with Dudu Mashinini, Glenda Maselesele, Andile Mahlangu, and Surprise Shai, Leva Foundation interns in Qheberha, assisted in introducing unplugged coding using the TANKS App to the DigiGirlz workshop. The girls were ecstatic to discover that they can even learn to code using the smartphones they carry.

Surprise, Andile, Glenda, Florence& Duduzile

The TANKS App coding program employs 31 puzzles created by Nelson Mandela University to teach students how to code. These are the identical puzzle pieces used by teams of learners during the Mandela Day event hosted by the Mpumalanga ICT CLUB at Witbank High School on 18 July 2022.

Ms. Nomusa Keninda is the founder of the Mpumalanga ICT Club and launched this DigiGirlz Workshop initiative in 2016. Since then, more than 2000 girls in the Nkangala District, Limpopo, Gauteng, and Cape Town have been introduced to this initiative through her networks.

Nomusa Keninda (observing the girls'projects)

Ms. Keninda stated, "There is still more work to be done, many girls are still in the dark about their career options, and some believe that there is an easy way to be successful because of what they see on TV soapies. I can't sleep at night knowing that there is a girl somewhere who is not dreaming of a STEM career." My goal is to reach out to more girls every day, not just during women's history month.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Mandela Day Coding Tournament

 The Mpumalanga ICT CLUB will bring excitement and the much needed skills of the future to the grade 7 learners who will be joining the  "The Mandela Day Coding Tournament" on the 18th July 2022 at Witbank High School,  eMalahleni in Mpumalanga. 

Participating schools will bring about 2 to 4 teams of 5 members to this Coding Tournament.  All schools hosted  TANKS Coding workshop recently in preparation for the Mandela Day Coding Tournament.  We are excited that this Tournament will be happening in 9 provinces of the country in various venues including some African countries like Kenya, Tanzania,  Namibia.

The main coordinator of this event is Prof. Jean Greyling in partnership with Leva Foundation and other supporting organizations . The Tournament will give our learners an opportunity to interact with one another, celebrate the Mandela Day and the winning teams will walk away with undisclosed prizes. We encourage teachers to prepare their teams for this day.

Coding is an essential skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and with this tournament we are hoping to excite learners to be future coders and above all, we want them to have fun. Coding makes learners to enjoy coming to school and prepare for their future.

Phopolo Primary School 

We take this opportunity to thank all participating teams, our Facilitators and Prof Jean Greyling of Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences for this opportunity.  We are ready and we want to enjoy the day with more fun games from Rangers and TANKS Coding Apps. 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Nomusa Keninda is a Trailblazer Award Winner of the 19TH Public Sector Innovation Awards

 Nomusa Keninda has made eMalahleni and Mpumalanga Department of Education proud again. On the 25th February 2022 at Birchwood Hotel, she was announced as one of the TRAILBLAZER Award Winner coming from Mpumalanga Province for her contribution to digital literacy within education. The ceremony was organized by the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI).

Keninda is well known for her zeal and commitment to the ICT in Education. She is the Founder and the CEO of the Mpumalanga ICT CLUB, the club that she established in 2014 to empower teachers, learners and the youth with digital technologies.

 “My highlights for getting is through my persistence in the promotion of STEM, especially in girls' education: The DigiGirlz initiative is close to my heart and I am grateful that I made some remarkable impact in digital literacy in Mpumalanga and other provinces,” said Keninda

Keninda was also invited to share her journey of innovation with other finalists from various government departments during the two days of the Design Thinking Methodology Workshop before the award ceremony at Birchwood Hotel in Ekurhuleni. Design thinking seeks to unlock innovative solutions in a process that involves empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing. 

“The workshop was excellently presented, it came at the right time where there are challenges in many workplaces ranging from lack of change management, digital transformation phobia and many more that need creativity and innovation. I learnt a lot from other finalists where they are also confronted with resistance to change from the traditional way of doing things in order to accelerate service delivery,” said Keninda.

Nomusa on the stage with the Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni Local Municipality and other Trailblazers Award Winners

Friday, March 11, 2022

Bawokuhle Primary School Kids are on the 4IR PATH...

Many of us may have some questions about this giant step taken by Bawokuhle Primary School. Where is this school and what is happening?

Grade 2s
Bawokuhle is an isiNdebele name meaning "Ask for Greatness" and can be corrected by those who named the school. The school is one of the hard to reach schools in  Mpumalanga, in the Thembisile Hani Municipality, well known as KwaNdebele in a rural village called Gemsbokspruit. The school is a Feeder to Vumabesala Secondary School in the same vicinity. 

On the 09 March 2022, one of the Mpumalanga ICT CLUB member, Florence Sibiya volunteered her time and shared her skills to bring more than 100 grade 2 learners closer to the path of  the long awaited Fourth Industrial Revolution in education through TANKS Coding. 

"I had a great time with the little ones here, they enjoyed the Coding activities" said Florence.  She mentioned how teachers and management of the school supported her with coordinating the kids to listen and follow the instructions from the start of the lesson. She moved from one class to another introducing Coding to the kids.

Grade 2s
TANKS Coding is known as an unplugged Coding, meaning that the code can be written without using a computer but an accessible smartphone app called TANKS powered by Tangible together with cardboard tokens to help the kids to write the code and be photographed by the camera used by the TANKS app. TANKS was developed by Byron Batteson at Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences under the supervision of Profesor Jean Greyling

"I am grateful to be trained as a facilitator for TANKS by the Mpumalanga ICT CLUB Founder Ms. Nomusa Keninda, and all her support towards the success of the project" said Florence. 

Florence joined the club in 2017 as a volunteer facilitator and IT technician. Like all the Volunteer Facilitators of the club, she is passionate and excellent in her work. Although the club is not paying her any anything,  she enjoys her work and gained a lot of knowledge and skills that will one day change her life for better.