The Robotics and Coding Program promotes equitable and inclusive learning for rural youth

The Robotics and Coding Program promotes equitable and inclusive learning for rural youth

Morningside resident Ashling McCarthy of the non-profit education foundation I’m Learning to Live – Ngivondela Okuvila encourages the community to invest in educational opportunities for all children, including youth from rural communities.

I Learn to Live was established in 2010 to provide educational opportunities to school children and youth in rural Zululand. “We believe that rural children and youth should be given the opportunity to create meaningful lives in which they contribute to their community and society at large,” says McCarthy.

In May 2021, I Learn to Live launched its first Coding and Robotics Club in the rural areas between Empangeni and Richards Bay, giving these kids the opportunity to engage in the push towards tech-related careers. Ten children from the community were selected to participate in the pilot programme, which was held at the Ngqamuzane Support Center on Saturdays, where children aged 9-15 were introduced to Arduino, an open source electronic platform that uses both software (coding) and hardware (kits). Sensors). This year, twenty children attended Saturday classes, which now include music sessions, where kids learn drums, keyboards, and sight reading, ”explains McCarthy.

Grade 9 learner Siqiniseko Msweli learns valuable information from coding software. Image: sent

With the success of the pilot program, I Learn to Live has sought to expand the program to the community. An audit of ICT resources conducted in primary schools in neighboring communities revealed an acute lack of infrastructure to run computer-based software. Maghwazi Elementary School had a functional but unused computer lab. In collaboration with the principal and parents of the fifth- to seventh-grade students, sixty children were selected to attend the Programming and Robotics Club after school,” says McCarthy.

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The I Learn to Live’s Coding and Robotics program is in line with the KZN Ministry of Education’s focus on introducing coding and robotics to children at the foundation stage in 2023. It also meets SDG #4: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The program is specifically run as a free afternoon extracurricular club for interested learners. I Learn to Live facilitates sessions, which include equipment and data. Arduino online training manuals are designed to fit into a rural school context, which affects implementation challenges, such as limited resources and electricity that often runs out. It also takes into account that English is not the first language of the learners, so it is taught in both English and IziZulu.

“The program first addresses the basics of computers because most, if not all, learners do not have computer experience. Only then are learners introduced to programming and robotics. Fifth grade learners begin with block code in the form of a Scratch 4 Arduino, which also uses hardware components, while Sixth and seventh grade learners jump right into Arduino, working with sensor assemblies and coding.”

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I Learn to Live is developing a training program so that young people studying programming can implement similar programming and robotics clubs in their communities. “In 2023, we will add a meal for every child who attends the program because most of the last meal for these children is at breakfast time,” says McCarthy.

If you would like more information or would like to support the I Learn to Live Coding and Robotics programme, contact Phumlani Zungu on 073 337 5226 or Ashling McCarthy on 072 432 0316, or send an email to ash[email protected]or visit

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