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

In support of Universal Children’s Day’s theme: “Equality and Inclusion for Every Child,” Ashling McCarthy, founder of educational non-profit organization I Learn To Live- Ngifundela Ukuphila, 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 education opportunities to school children and youth in rural Zululand.

McCarthy said, “We believe that rural children and young people should be given the opportunity to create meaningful lives, in which they can contribute to their community and society at large.”

In May 2021, I Learn To Live launched its first Coding and Robotics Club in the rural areas between Empangeni and Richards Bay, offering these kids the opportunity to engage in a push towards 4IR and technology 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 between the ages of 9 and 15 were introduced to Arduino, an open source electronic platform that uses both software (coding) and hardware ( sensor kits).

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 a principal and parents of fifth- to seventh-grade students, 60 children were selected to attend an after-school programming and robotics club,” McCarthy continued.

The I Learn To Live Coding and Robotics program is in line with the focus of the KZN Education Department to introduce 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 outdoor club for interested pupils. I Learn To Live facilitates sessions, which include equipment and data.

Arduino online training manuals are designed to fit the context of a rural school, 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 deals with computer basics as most, if not all, pupils have no experience with a computer. Only then will the pupils be introduced to programming and robotics. Fifth graders start with block code in the form of a Scratch 4 Arduino, which also uses hardware components, while sixth and seventh graders go straight to Arduino, working with sensor assemblies and coding,” she said.

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 the last meal for these children is at breakfast time,” McCarthy confirmed.

If you would like more information or would like to support the I Learn To Live coding and robotics program, contact Phumlani Zungu at 073-337-5226 or Ashling McCarthy at 072-432-0316.

Instead, email [email protected] or visit www.ilearntolive.co.za

McCarthy encourages citizens to embrace and support the 2022 theme for Universal Children’s Day, “Equality and Inclusion for Every Child,” now and in the future.

“Our young people can answer many rural challenges. Our role is to provide them with the opportunities, the skills and, most importantly, the faith to do so,” she concluded.


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