Award ceremony at Tamaho Primary

When Mbali Mpanza (Grade 6) and Kwakhanya Matyana (Grade 5) first started attending JumpStart Robotics and Coding Programme at Tamaho Primary in January 2019, the girls were shy and hung back from conversation with their classmates. What was required? Could they keep up with the others? Most importantly, would the after school programme be fun?

Little did they know that by year end, they would be shaking the principal’s hand on receiving their Gold Awards for outstanding performance.

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 public speaking.

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, and special appreciation awards for the participating schools. Our hosts at Tamaho put the cherry on top! We arrived to discover the school hall had been beautifully decorated for us. 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 receive the special appreciation awards. “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, who is glad to see girls 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, getting up to speed with robotics and coding skills, as well as the subtleties of teaching. One particularly inspired us all, with her outstanding commitment and obvious love of teaching,” said Daniella. “Sinenhlanhla Ndumela’s attitude and professional approach impacts and enhances technical education.”

Daniella hopes that the table at the award ceremony at the end of 2020 will be groaning with medals and trophies! “Kids want to get cool awards and make their parents proud.” 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 contacting Daniella on daniella@jumpstart.org.za

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