Robotic education started over a decade ago in South Africa. However, 90% of pupils in the country are still not exposed to the fundamentals of robotics. Less than a month ago, the education department decreased the pass standard of mathematics to 20%, raising the frightening prospect of a generation without mathematical skills – as the world at large embraces a fourth industrial revolution.
This revolution, also known as Industry 4.0 is building, and South Africa is not prepared. In early 2000, the slow growth of robotics in South Africa was linked to cultural and socio-economic issues. But today, it is an entirely different issue as government seems to still prefer to promote arts and culture above science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Private schools in South Africa are already ahead of public schools, teaching pupils on robot education and investing in STEM subjects to upskill the pupil’s knowledge for the future.
The Deutsche Schule Pretoria has a robotics lab and with the help of leading global provider of technology and services Bosch, they have an outreach initiative established to share robot skills with those from disadvantaged communities in the Pretoria area. The robotics lab is open to over 130 outreach schools including Nantes and Norridge Park from Eersterust, Christian Boys College as well as Pula Difate, Koos Matli and Sikhanyisele from Mamelodi, with robotic skills and knowledge to build and design robots.
According to Dr. Markus Thill, President of Bosch Region Africa, as part of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, there are certain elements that are relevant to robotics. The one is education, the second is self-sustainability and the third is industrialisation.
South African pupils, especially those in townships and rural areas need to be empowered to engage in robot education and to take subjects such as IT, science and mathematics – as 15 out of the 20 growing jobs require mathematics and science. At the rate the country is going, in the future the poverty and unemployment rates will only continue to increase.
Thill said, “STEM subjects teach pupils how to code the literacy of the future. This initiative is very close our hearts, we are investing in Africa and in the future. As the continent will need engineers and mechanics.”
DSP pupils are taught robotics in classrooms from kindergarten to high school. The school’s curriculum includes extensive use of robotics and over 200 of the pupils from the Bosch Robotics Lab participate in robotics at national competition level annually.
On 21 November 2016, Bosch sponsored five pupils to travel to New Delhi, India and compete in the World Robot Olympiad. The WRO Competition is open to pupils from all over the world to come in and showcase their robots. The Bosch team was made up of the Hackers from DSP and the Infernos from the outreach school. The Infernos designed a robot that cleans dirty areas while the Hackers created a robot that could play soccer.
Six teams from South Africa qualified for the 2016 World Robot Olympiad, with one team the Mecha Strikers from the Western Cape winning all four games in the Robot Football category. Other categories at the robotics competition – which was attended by more than 450 teams from 50 countries, some as young as 6 years old, while others were approaching university graduation – asked participants to create robotics solutions to reduce or recycle waste, leading teams to create robots that emptied trash bins or pick up up building debris for future use.
“Robot education is very important. It has the ability to curb unemployment and poverty. Currently, the youth are at home with degrees that they cannot use because what they have studied is not what is needed,” says Warren Markley, Head of Robotics at DSP.
Robot education will play a fundamental role in solving some of the problems that South Africa is facing. As pupils who are introduced to STEM subjects are motivated to be involved in creating future technology and are prepared with some of the most invaluable skills such as problem-solving, logical reasoning, critical thinking and creativity.
Therefore, it is critical that pupils not only learn how to use the technology but also compete in world competitions that provides them with the knowledge and understanding of how to create robots. “South Africa has great potential and we believe that if we teach pupils at a young age on how to design and build, we are providing them with the tools to think logically and change something quickly,” says Thill.
Limpopo: Vodacom powers digital classrooms
Vodacom has revealed that teachers and learners in Limpopo can look forward to digital classrooms. This, according to Vodacom, is thanks to the roll-out of a countrywide e-learning programme undertaken by Vodacom in partnership with Samsung. The latest recipients of the project are Seloutjo Secondary School, Ga-matlala Limpopo.
Limpopo Education MEC, Mr Ishmael Kgetjepe unveiled the new equipment which had been given to the school and included: 26 tablets, a laptop, an interactive whiteboard, a data projector, a printer, educational aids and free Internet connectivity.
Mr Ishmael Kgatjepe said: “This gift will change the future of education specifically for our learners in the long term, especially if our school governing bodies, teachers and the school management put measurements in place to secure these new tech tools. It is through technology that everyone can receive the same quality of education”.
Likewise, Vodacom Business, Chief Officer, Vuyani Jarana added: “Not only does technology enable quality learning on tablets and interactive boards, it’s also becoming the cornerstone for enabling mass social progress in education which is the future.”
Jarana continued to say: “Many learners in South Africa do not have access to the basics learning requirements like textbooks, which makes excelling at school more difficult especially in the underprivileged environments. The Vodacom e-learning initative gives access to ICT tools and, more importantly, the connectivity where and when they most need it.”
In the first phase rollout which ended in March 2015, Vodacom connected 371 previously disadvantaged schools across the country, equipping them with ICT tools.
For the second phase, which started in August 2015, Vodacom intends to connect 700 schools nationally. In Limpopo, Vodacom aims to equip and connect 50 schools including Seloutjo Secondary School.
The e-learning solution will serve as a learning platform with free Internet access to education content for learners in grades 8 to 12 across the country. Over and above this, learners who are Vodacom subscribers will also be able to access classroom content, which is curriculum aligned on their mobile device across all major subjects, for free. This is because Vodacom has zero rated browsing on the site for its customers.
e-Learning makes learning interactive and simpler for learners and educators. It equips educators with mobile technology to help improve the classroom experience using rich digitized media content.
“Learners can now complete lessons from their school syllabus, which will help them improve their marks. They can also track their progress and see how they are performing compared to other students in a fun, easy and interactive way,” added Jarana.
Internet connectivity is an added advantage providing learners with the opportunity to study at home. Educators are able to create lessons, schedule remote lessons and log, monitor and report on learner progress.
Jarana concluded by saying “Supporting education is a key focus for Vodacom. Vodacom e-learning reflects our commitment to weigh in and help improve the standard and quality of education in our country.”
As a lead operator in the country, Vodacom is committed to providing a host of technology equipment and services to previously disadvantaged schools. The list of schools is provided by the Department of Communication as stipulated in the amended licence obligation regulations.
SA students graduate from SAP Skills for Africa programme
SAP Africa has announced the successful graduation of all 75 South African students from its SAP Skills for Africa job creation initiative. The South African chapter of the SAP Skills for Africa initiative was announced four months ago and forms an integral part of SAP Africa’s commitment to train ICT consultants across the continent.
The successful graduation today of all 75 South African students follows the first group of graduates from Kenya who completed the SAP Skills for Africa training certification in 2013 and 2014, as well as in Morocco in 2015.
The South African programme represents collaboration between SAP Africa and local SAP customers and partners, including Accenture, ATOS, Britehouse, BMW, Consnet, Gauteng Provincial Government, Multichoice, Tata Consulting Services, T-Systems and MICT SETA, all of whom share a unified mission to promote economic growth and sustainable job creation.
“We are committed to work with the private sector to increase the pool of ICT professionals who have the requisite skills to enable us to deliver high quality e-government services to the Gauteng City Region. This partnership represents an important step in the right direction for us as we move to train and empower half a million young people across our province over the next five years and achieve the objectives of Gauteng Tshepo 500 000, which is a bold employment and entrepreneurial programme of Premier David Makhura,” said Barbara Creecy, MEC for Treasury and E-Government.
A total of 19 graduates from the SAP Skills for Africa initiative joined the Department of E-Government as interns at the beginning of this month. They will spend the next 12 months working alongside the professional staff of the provincial government in the configuration, customisation and support activities of the SAP System functions in all departments.
“These students have been afforded a rare opportunity to kick-start long and fruitful careers in a global growth space. As an SAP partner and company that’s been fully immersed in the process, we are fortunate enough to snap up some of this talent. We’re excited by what the future holds and the impact these students will have on Britehouse and the industry. It won’t take long for these rising stars to become shining stars,” said Themba Chakela, General Manager, Group Organisational Effectiveness at Britehouse.
“The value of the SAP Skills for Africa programme is that every student who has successfully completed their studies will go on to internships with SAP partners and customers involved in the initiative,” says Brett Parker, Managing Director at SAP Africa.
“SAP is still committed to driving business right across Africa, with the ultimate objective of improving people’s lives through the deployment of innovative industry-specific software solutions. This is not possible without developing the right skills and creating the right jobs in the communities in which we do business,” he added.
The SAP Skills for Africa Scholarship Programme training takes place over a period of ten to twelve weeks and comprises a hybrid approach of classroom and e-learning fully-sponsored by SAP with no cost to the students. The course focuses on internationally recognised IT and business skills.