In a classroom somewhere in Gauteng, a primary school pupil is staring out of the window, wondering what project s/he could come up with for his/her ORT SA Coding Club assignment.

Pupils aged 10-14 years old create ingenious projects that involve problem-solving, targeted at real life situations, which are presented at a glittering event each year.

Coding is the lingua franca of the future and ORT SA places emphasis on the importance of this skill as a critical element in the 21st century learning.  In order to equip learners to create, use and consume technology ORT SA, with its partners Bidvest, Astron Energy, Nedbank and the Sage Foundation has implemented Coding Clubs as an extra mural activity in  20  previously disadvantaged primary and high schools across Gauteng, reaching over 600 learners.

“At the annual end of year ORT SA STEM event, Ariellah Rosenberg, ORT SA CEO said, “It is important to show-case what teachers and learners have achieved throughout the year. Their commitment to ORT SA’s Coding Clubs means that they invest many hours after school, dedicated to the learning and teaching of the language of coding, ” said Ariellah Rosenberg, ORT SA’s CEO

The projects that the pupils present at the events are only a sample of the total projects that were designed, researched and created by them with the support of their teachers and ORT SA’s facilitators.”

The project-based learning methodology directs learners to explore challenges in their communities and then try to solve them.  For example, one of the designs is a tracker for children to combat child- trafficking challenges in townships. The pupils touched on a very pertinent problem facing their communities on a daily basis.

Other ingenious projects include: a vibrating walking stick for the blind, a bag that is illuminated inside when it is dark (for safety reasons when there is no electricity), a gate that alerts the school to anyone trying to bring in weapons (to avoid the alarming rate of violence at schools) and an administrative system that is based on fingerprints, (to avoid children ‘bunking’ from classes).

The methodology develops critical and analytical thinking skills, problem solving and collaboration. Furthermore, learners have to present their projects in front of a large audience, which develops their communication skills.

“These gained skills are in addition to the computational abilities, which are crucial for preparing the youth of today for jobs of the future,” said Mashudu Romano, Astron Energy Chairman and funder of some of the clubs, “STEM is so important. This is why Astron Energy is partnering with ORT SA. ”

“ORT SA is looking to expand this programme to more schools, in partnerships with the Department of Education, key stakeholders in industry and the corporate world. We are happy to meet the challenge set to us by Dr Aaron Nkosi, Director of Maths, Science and Technology and ICT at the Department of Basic Education, for ORT SA to take the lead for the incorporation of Coding into the national curriculum,” Rosenberg added.

“Whenever I observe these presentations, I am reminded that these innovations are generated by 10-14 years old! And this gives me hope for the future for this country,” she concluded.

ORT SA is an educational and training NGO and its mission is “Making People Employable”.

Written by Marcelle Ravid