When Mbali Mpanza (Grade 6) and Kwakhanya Matyana (Grade 5) first attended the JumpStart Robotics and Coding Programme, winning an award was the last thing on their minds. The girls were shy and hung back from their classmates on that first day in January 2019. What was required? Could they keep up with the others? Most importantly, would the after school robotics programme at Tamaho Primary School be fun? Little did they know that by year end, they would be shaking the principal’s hand as they received Gold Awards for outstanding performance.
Technical skills and social skills
This was the year that they would meet their peers from primary schools throughout Gauteng and Mpumalanga in a significant contest at UNISA. Week by week from Monday to Thursday, they focused on acquiring new technical skills and developing social skills to enable them to work as a robotics team. The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) tournament offered the girls an exciting chance to speak up for their team.
Team leader, Daniella Lekgau, has diligently coached (and coaxed) this team of 40 children into a greater understanding of the nuts and bolts of coding – as well as the importance of public speaking.
The role of future skills
Daniella recognised this opportunity to improve awareness of 21st century skills in the Katlehong community. By bringing parents on board, she believes they will better understand and celebrate what their children have achieved.
“I sent out the invitations, then set about printing certificates for the highest performing learners. Each participating school received a special appreciation award. Our hosts at Tamaho put the cherry on top! We arrived to discover the school hall had been beautifully decorated. The Tamaho team plays a huge role in our success,” she said. The highlight of her day was watching the principals from the participating schools step up to receive their award. “Without their contributions the programme could never get off the ground,” said Daniella.
“Although they start off shy and quiet, girls dominated the class,” said Daniella. She is glad to see how girls are reimagining the future. “Girls can excel at anything they put their mind to!” She’s eager to point out that because robotics requires building and physicality, boys do very well too. “Boys really enjoy it although they sometimes struggle to give the girls a chance to experiment with the material!” Such are the challenges of classroom management…
“Six new tutors joined the programme in 2019, and were soon up to speed with new robotics and coding skills. They also grasped the subtleties of teaching, especially Sinenhlanhla Ndumela. Her outstanding commitment and obvious love of teaching shone through. This enthusiastic attitude and professional approach greatly impacts and enhances technical education.”
Is it work if you’re having so much fun?
Daniella hopes that at the end of 2020 the table will be groaning with even more medals and trophies. “Kids want to get cool awards. They want to make their parents proud,” she said. Kwakhanya reckons this will inspire them to work extra hard! Mantombi Ndluli, who participated enthusiastically all year, bounced up to receive her certificate. She says you can’t call it “work” if you’re having so much fun.
Do you want to make a difference? Donate a trophy or a set of medals? Be part of JumpStart Robotics and Coding Programme’s success by emailing Betty Oliphant!