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ISASA member Get Ahead College receives 4iR STREAM laboratory

| January 14, 2021 | 0 Comments

BY LAUREN SCHWARZ

An exciting world of drones, 3D printing, robotics and artificial intelligence has opened up for the high school students and teachers at Get Ahead College in Komani, Eastern Cape, with the establishment of a 4iR classroom.1

The 21st century science and technology centre, a project of STEM education specialist, Sakhikamva Foundation,2 sponsored by Software AG,3 brings the Grade 8-12 students and their educators into a unique community of practice to develop creative, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Aeronautics and Mathematics) education develops essential skills and knowledge, by enabling learners to enjoy hands-on experience with technologies that are currently re-shaping our world. It’s an important priority for education in South Africa, where some children still matriculate without ever getting their hands on a computer.

Transformation crucial for rural Eastern Cape

Get Ahead College principal Pieter Steyn says:

People who live and work and go to school in more traditional and often more rural environments like here in the Eastern Cape, stand the risk of being out of sync with the digitised world of the 4iR. As a result, students from economically under-served rural communities are increasingly faced with a decline in their problem-solving skills. This accentuates the urgent need for us to find ways to bridge our students into the digital world of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The 4IR classroom, supported by the 4iR teaching pedagogy, will inspire students by having digitised tools available at their fingertips, so that they can observe in real time the design process from conceptualisation to operation.

Country managing director for Software AG South Africa, Kholiwe Makhohliso, says, ‘We believe that access to 4iR skills is a necessity and no one should be left behind. To this end, we have chosen to partner with Sakhikamva Foundation to establish innovation labs and 4iR classrooms in previously disadvantaged communities.

Emphasising that community and skills development form a big part of Software AG’s commitment to transformation goals, Makhohliso adds:

It is a commitment that is deeply rooted in uplifting communities and bringing access to technology and tools for the enhancement of skills aimed at South Africa’s youth. This has led us to fund initiatives that put meaningful ideas into action; directly improve the well-being of our communities and set examples for the future.

Giving all students a fair chance

Sakhikamva Foundation is a non-profit organisation that has touched the lives of more than 130 000 children through its range of STREAM enrichment programmes, including connecting South African schools to science projects underway on the International Space Station.4 When it comes to educating the youth for the 4iR, which features world-changing technologies that are fundamentally disrupting the work that humans do, South Africa faces critical challenges. Many schools lack access to basic technology; teachers are not taught how to develop 4iR skills in the classroom; internet access is far from universal and still costs too much; and schools in rural and low income communities remain disproportionately cut off from the resources they need for 4iR teaching and learning.

Outgoing executive director of Get Ahead Schools, Mariette Visser, says:

Schools have to prepare students for the fast-changing world of work. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not in the future; it is here now. Get Ahead is fortunate to have makerspace rooms in both our primary schools where our students can tinker and develop design mindsets in a playful manner. Now our college students will have the benefit of a 4iR classroom which will expose them to robotics and coding for the first time.

Learning how to take calculated risks

Vicki du Preez, the newly appointed Get Ahead executive head, expresses her gratitude thus:

Confidence in 21st century skills will allow our students to take calculated risks and be resilient when they get into the workplace. We want to thank our sponsors for bringing this kind of technology to Get Ahead and the community of Komani. Teachers and students will be excited and intrigued with the 4iR classroom, and in this year of COVID-19, this is exactly what they need to enjoy school again. It is important for us to actively teach the soft skills required for our students to be successful in life after school. They have shown incredible resilience and adaptability throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period. The added knowledge they will be equipped with in the 4iR classroom, along with the soft skills, will change the trajectory of their futures significantly. We are excited for the ripple effect of the 4iR Classroom in our community.

Get Ahead’s invigorating 4iR classroom is powered by the innovative Gamma education platform5 and includes tablets and drones as well as artificial intelligence, robotics and appmaking kits. Founder of Sakhikamva Foundation, forensic scientist and drone pilot, Fatima Jakoet, says:

With the opening of this 4iR classroom, we are delighted to welcome Get Ahead College into our family, where curiosity and wonder are highly prized. Teachers will be trained in STREAM philosophy and teaching methodologies, and students will enter into a fascinating new world during their technology classes and afterschool activities. This is a fantastic new space for real 21st century skills development in Komani. This 4iR learning centre is fully equipped with technology and connectivity to empower students to develop as the leaders, innovators, change agents and problem-solvers in their community.

Get Ahead students can’t wait to get going

Mihle Bongweni, a Grade 11 student at Get Ahead College, shares her excitement:

We are really excited about the opening of the 4iR classroom. We are merging the human brain and the computer brain together, to bring [about] the world of technology, which I think is very interesting. We are really privileged to have this experience and we feel incredibly lucky. What I’m most excited about, are the principles and the use of augmented reality and simulation, which I think gives us more experience of what we are going to see in life after school.

Her twin sister, Inathi Bongweni, also has something to share:

Having started learning to fly drones through coding and using an app in the workshops this week, we can already tell how much of an exciting journey we are embarking on. This is a privilege, mainly because of the geographical setting of our school. These classes go beyond the school curriculum because skills like coding, for example, aren’t provided as part of our curriculum, yet they are one of the technological skills that prepare us for life after school. I am most excited about app development and coding because coding prepares us better for future jobs. We know that the world is moving rapidly and becoming more technological, so with the coding and app development, we are able to use the critical 21st century skills to ensure sustainable employment for ourselves.

References:

  1. 4iR refers to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. See:https://infocus.wief.org/education-in-the-4ir/
  2. See: https://www.sakhikamva.org/
  3. See: https://www.softwareag.com/en_corporate.html
  4. See: https://singularityhub.com/2018/12/05/research-in-zero-gravity-6-coolprojects-from-the-international-space-station/
  5. See: https://gammatech.co.za/services/

Category: Summer 2020

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