This weekend, about 100 high school learners from across the Western Cape will get their first taste of computer programming. They’ll be attending an intensive two-day introductory course at Stellenbosch University, fully sponsored by the Media Lab. The learners will get an introduction to everything from variables and loops, to lists, strings and functions. They’ll also pick up some Linux skills through an introduction to Ubuntu.
The event is part of Project Umonya, which aims to promote Computer Science and programming to South African learners. This is important, because the current shortage of candidates for software-related jobs in South Africa is estimated at about 70,000. South Africa has a fast-growing software industry, and good programmers are desperately needed to fill these positions, but many high school learners may not know what excellent career opportunities exist. They might not even know how enjoyable programming can be! The aim of the weekend is to show them some of the fun of coding.
The organizer of the event, Dr Steve Kroon (who is also an active collaborator in the Media Lab) says of the project: “On the whole the learners will leave the course having a better understanding of what programming is about, and with their newly acquired skills, they’ll have the tools to continue their own learning afterwards.” Because the initiative is aimed at stimulating learners’ interest in computer science, the course is specifically aimed at Grade 7 to 12 learners who do not yet take Information Technology as a school subject. Basic computer literacy, however, is a requirement.
The course will be presented by the Computer Science Division in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stellenbosch University, in conjunction with the Algorithm Circle of the University of Cape Town. A similar successful course was presented earlier in the year. Students from UCT and SU will assist the learners in their practical work.