A new initiative to get school students inspired to get involved with technology launched this weekend, with the inaugural session of Young African Technologists (YAT) at Phefani Senior Secondary School on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.
Over the next couple of months, experts and enthusiasts from a variety of fields including robotics, electronic music, web design and software engineering will present a series of Saturday workshops in which school kids will learn the basics of web design, principles of coding and how there’s much more to a modern phone than Facebook.
The scheme was thought up by Dr Charles Lebon Mberi Kimpolo and Ditjhaba Selemela from software house ThoughtWorks, which has offices in Braamfontein. Colleagues at the company have been instrumental in establishing a chapter of BlackGirlsCode in Johannesburg, which we’ve covered extensively in the past.
Kimpolo says that while BlackGirlsCode was much needed to address the incredible shortage of young black women entering the IT industry, the demographic imbalance is actually much wider. Schools which lack the resources to teach IT and technology can’t hope to inspire their pupils to get involved with it.
Phefani school is a great example. Despite being in one of the most famous and affluent areas of Soweto, down the road from the Hector Pieterson Memorial and in sight of the houses of two Nobel Prize winners, its computer lab was provided by Gauteng Online, and was summarily shut down when the contract to supply ended at the end of last year. Like many schools which rely on Gauteng Online, it’s still struggling to adapt to the new tablet-based program which has been mandated for learners.
Kimpolo says that he wanted to launch YAT at Phefani because of its geography: the site of the student uprising seemed appropriate, he says, for starting a new revolution in student activism based around using technology for good – a key mantra among ThoughtWorks employees. But hey – let’s let him explain it in his own words.