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Google to train 30,000 SA learners in computer science

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Tirelong Secondary School pupils test their new laptops in their new computer laboratory in Kroondal, Rustenburg, 26 October 2018. Picture: ANA

Google South Africa has announced the launch of CS First, an ambitious programme aimed at equipping South African learners with the fundamentals of computer science. 

Launched at an event that included government, members of the education community, and community leaders, the programme aims to train more than 30 000 learners across nine provinces in the space of a year. 

Created by educators, CS First aims to introduce students to computer science fundamentals in a collaborative environment. Students watch instructional videos while simultaneously building projects in Scratch (scratch.mit.edu), a blocks-based programming language. 

“If South Africa is to compete globally, its learners need to have a strong digital skills base,” says Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, Policy and Government Affairs, Google South Africa. “With CS First, we’re setting up that foundation, equipping them for success later on.”   

The programme targets learners in grades 4 to 8, although it may also be useful for learners up to grade 10. Globally, more than 2-million learners have experienced CS First.

To ensure that the programme addresses the needs of the disconnected and underserved communities and is inclusive, 70% of Google’s CS First training will be in public schools and 10% in special needs schools. 

“We are also aiming to encourage girls into the technological world, with a goal of reaching a 60% female inclusion rate into the project,” says Mgwili-Sibanda.

The official launch of CS First comes off the back of a successful pilot project which saw 2 400 learners from selected South African public schools and 2 community centres, in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces, get hands-on with CS First.

The launch also ties in with Google’s work through its Grow with Google initiative across Africa. Over the last two years, it has trained thousands of South Africans on digital skills with the help of its training partners through its Digital Skills for Africa programme. Its community training sessions have targeted underserved areas to expand digital skills to a diverse range of people. 

“Google is always inspired to see what people can do when they have access to technology,” says Mgwili-Sibanda. “CS First exposes students to coding as a means of developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills which have been identified as essential in the 4th Industrial Revolution.” 

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DStv Now adds free education to ‘lockdown channels’

In its response to the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa, DStv is offering 16 free channels on its streaming app

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Two new channels have been added to a free service being provided on DStv Now, the online version of DStv. 

In response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, DStv owner MultiChoice worked with local and international news channels in mid-March to add 24-hour news coverage to the DStv Now free service.

The company says the intent was to help all South Africans stay up to date with announcements and developments, and the results so far are encouraging. Usage of the service has increased 20% since the lockdown began, and peak usage is up 80% compared to pre-crisis peaks. 

 Now, in another step to help families through the lockdown period, MultiChoice has added additional educational content to the free service with the Mindset PoP channel. This channel features educational programming covering the entire General Education and Training (GET) phase, including Early Childhood Development (ECD), as well as a key focus on the Grade 4 – 9 curriculum. 

The channel aims to prepare children for when schools reopen. Mindset PoP will deliver live lessons daily, with six fresh hours every day. A website is available for parents to download worksheets and information sheets to work through with expert teachers. Lessons are based on the South African Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) and are also aligned to the Cambridge curriculum.

“We’re extremely grateful to all of the channel providers for being so willing to work with us to help all South Africans through this unprecedented lockdown period,” said Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of the Connected Video division of MultiChoice. 

“Thanks to their support we’re able to keep people informed, keep kids’ educations going, and keep people entertained.”

The full list of channels available to non-DStv customers on the DStv Now free service is:

100 – DStv

180 – People’s Weather

238 – SuperSport Play

313 – PBS Kids

317 – Mindset PoP

320 – Channel O

343 – TBN

400 – BBC World News

401 – CNN

402 – Sky News

403 – eNCA

404 – SABC News

405 – Newzroom Afrika

405 – AlJazeera

414 – Euronews Now

417 – africanews

To sign up for the DStv Now free service, go to http://now.dstv.com 

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FNB Connect cuts data price by 55%, offers 1GB free

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FNB Connect has reduce its data prices by up to 55%. It is also doubling customers’ data on Lifestyle plans without any price increase.

This weekend, FNB Connect will also give all its customers 1GB of free data during the national lockdown, with a validity period of 30 days. This lockdown data allocation is in addition to the Free Connect allocations that customers with qualifying transactional accounts receive monthly.

“This will enable our customers to save on telco spend, which is a regular feature in household budgets,” says Raj Makanjee, CEO of FNB Retail. “Access to affordable and free data goes a long way in assisting our customers navigate difficult times and is also aligned to our ethos of offering real help when it’s needed the most.”

Shadrack Palmer, FNB Connect product head, says: “In our efforts to provide our customers with more value for their money, we’ve reduced our mobile data prices and doubled the data bundles on most of our Lifestyle plans, to give our customers more reason to connect anywhere and anytime. This is needed now more than even, as South Africans are observing the 21-day national lockdown, with many strapped for cash during these challenging times.”

The new data prices and doubling of the Lifestyle plans are to be repriced as follows:

“Since the launch of our Free Connect offering in July 2019, we’ve tried to remain consistent to see how best we can incentivise our customers when they need it most,” says Palmer.  “As FNB Connect, we understand the pressures customers are facing financially and are committed to providing better value at every opportunity.”

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