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SAP aims to “change the world with superpowers”

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Africa’s biggest digital skills initiative, SAP Africa Code Week (ACW), launched this week with a strong focus on virtual learning as the continent struggles to recover after the Covid-19 disruption.

A highlight for ACW this year is the AfriCANCodeChallenge, a coding competition for students aged 8 to 16 to create a game that solves a community-issue using the Scratch programming language. The theme for this year is “Change the world with your superpowers”. Last year the competition drew entries from 1,800 participants from 40 African countries, with the top three winners from Ethiopia, South Africa and Algeria – all three of whom are girls.

The launch coincided with World Teacher’s Day, which focuses this year on “teachers at the heart of education recovery”.

Speaking at a virtual event to mark both World Teacher’s Day and the start of SAP Africa Code Week, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for communication and information, Dr Tawfik Jelassi, said that the pandemic has had a devastating effect, not only on the world’s health system and economy, but also on education and the teaching profession. Research shows that African children at primary-school level have been most impacted by the pandemic, while a UNICEF study estimated that many African schoolchildren are at least a year behind

“Teachers are at the heart of global education recovery efforts and are key in accelerating progress towards inclusive, equitable and quality education for every learner in every circumstance,” says Jelassi.

He highlighted the importance of digital skills for Africa’s youth: “Understanding information technology, computational thinking, and problem-solving are all fundamental information literacy skills. Everyone should have access to information and be able to obtain the necessary competencies to turn information into knowledge and knowledge into a practical value which enhances their lives and well-being.”

Since its inception in 2015, Africa Code Week has empowered more than nine million youth and provides free opportunities for students and teachers to learn technology skills. Last year the format shifted entirely to the virtual world, making it more accessible to youth across the continent.

As part of ACW,  Train-the-Trainer virtual sessions are aimed at empowering teachers with critical digital teaching skills. Training opportunities also encompass a Women Empowerment Program which seeks to teach, mentor, and inspire African women and girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Although Africa has the world’s highest population of young people according to the UN, less than 25% of African higher education students are in STEM fields. Female students in particular are critically underrepresented.

Claudio Muruzabal, SAP regional president of EMEA South, said: “Education has an unbelievably powerful multiplier effect for a positive future. The more we can do to create opportunities for young people to embrace digital literacy, the more we contribute relevantly towards creating a better future for them, for their families, and for their communities.”

Smart switch to mobile

With over 650 million smartphone users in Africa, a major innovation of last year’s ACW was the introduction of a smartphone app. 

Claire Gillissen-Duval, head of SAP corporate social responsibility for EMEA and Africa Code Week founder. said: “While we are immensely proud of this and the fact that millions of learners and teachers are being exposed to the endless possibilities the tech world offers, we are also excited to be sparking conversations about access to quality education for all and addressing the gender and special-needs barriers for Africa’s youth.”

Despite the restrictions imposed by Covid, last year’s initiative successfully reached 1.5 million youth, of which nearly half (48%) were girls. Over 10,500 workshops were held across 43 countries and 21,000 teachers participated in Train-the-Trainer sessions.

* The live workshop season of Africa Code Week 2021 commenced on World Teacher’s Day, 5 October, and is now open to more than 54 pan-African countries. For more information about Africa Code Week or to get involved, visit www.africacodeweek.org

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