President’s Podium – May / June 2018
This month we celebrate Youth day. On 16 June 1976 thousands of students gathered in Vilikazi Street in Soweto to protest the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. Unfortunately, the protest turned violent when the police opened fire on unarmed children and thousands of people were injured and many lost their lives. Youth day is celebrated in memory of all the young people who lost their lives during the protest and to recognise the role of the youth in the liberation of South Africa from the apartheid regime.
Educating our youth is not easy and our educators are faced with many challenges. I came across an article by the Mail & Guardian where they write about the fact that History should be considered as a compulsory subject in South African schools as from 2023.
Currently History is a compulsory subject until Grade 9, thereafter it becomes an elective. Take it from someone that took History up until Matric, if I could turn back time, I would not have chosen the subject as an elective. It is important to know one’s country’s history, but I disagree with the article that “History education at school has the potential to offer explanatory, analytical and interpretative skills. Ideally, learners have to be capable to assess arguments and develop an ability to construct counter-arguments which have to be synthesised within an historical narrative,” the task team said in its report.” All it taught me was to memorise dates, names and places which I have already forgotten.
A far better option would be to teach and make programming a compulsory subject at school. Considering that we are facing the 4th Industrial Revolution we should be educating and arming our youth with skills that they can start using immediately after leaving school. We need to teach our youth to become responsible and productive citizens of society. We need to prepare them for the future because most of us depend on technology in our everyday lives.
Programming classes in schools can help children understand the basics of programming structure, logic and design. Not all children will become software engineers, however learning programming may sharpen their practical and logical thinking skills.
I know that teaching coding at school is a tall order. After all, it is far easier to equip schools and educators to teach History than coding but what impact will this have on our already dwindling economy? Currently we are “importing” software engineering skills while our unemployment rate continues to grow. I’ve always said that South Africa has amazing talent but we need to develop and grow our talent pool.
I do hope that “if-then-else” will trump “WW2”.
PS: Soccer fever is in the air. I hope my favourite team makes it to the finals.