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Computer Olympiad warns of skills shortage

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The Standard Bank/CSSA Computer Olympiad is an annual competition to identify, encourage and reward programming skills among high school learners.

The competition attracted nearly 23,000 entries for the First Round this year, and 2,700 for the Second Round. Sixteen learners were invited to take part in the Final Round which took place at the University of Cape Town on 27 and 28 September. The winners were announced at a gala function at Kelvin Grove in Cape Town this week.

Guest Speaker Sandie Overtveld, Marketing Manager of Microsoft South Africa, explained how his company is always searching for new and creative programming talent, and that such talent is hard to find.

Peter Waker, a director of the Computer Society of South Africa, expanded by pointing out the opportunities for the Computer Olympiad participants. “While the world needs more Informatics experts, the education system is actually delivering fewer. This is a world-wide trend, but in South Africa the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Education are taking active steps to encourage interest in Science, Engineering and Technology. They have created a body to encourage and support competitions like the Computer Olympiad.

Brendon Wilson, from the sponsor Standard Bank, added: “Standard Bank encourages the development of talent in young South Africans and for this reason we support organisations like the Computer Olympiad.”


The Gold Medal, the Standard Bank Trophy and R41 000 was won by Francois Conradie, a grade 11 student at De Kuilen High School in Kuilsriver, Western Cape. This is the second time that Francois has reached the Computer Olympiad finals. In 2007 he won a R10 000 prize for being one of the top programmers using the computer language Python.

Silver Medals were awarded to Kosie van der Merwe, a grade 11 learner at Brackenfell High School in the Western Cape, and Robert Ketteringham a grade 12 learner at Rondebosch Boys’ High.

Michiel Baird of Elspark High School in Gauteng and Haroon Moolla of Rondebosch Boys’ High won Bronze. Also getting Bronze was the youngest medal winner in the competition – Schalk-Willem Krüger, in Grade 11 at Ferdinand Postma High School in North West Province. Schalk-Willem, who skipped a grade or two, participated in the Computer Olympiad for the third year in succession.


IT multi-billionaire, Mark Shuttleworth, donated R100 000 in prize money for the top six participants who use the computer language Python in the Final Round of the competition. This was the language used by Mark to develop the software on which his first successful business was built. By donating these prizes he wants to offer other young South Africans some of the same experiences and opportunities he had.

The Python Prizes were awarded as follows:

R30 000: Francois Conradie, Grade 11 at De Kuilen High, Western Cape
R20 000: Robert Ketteringham, Grade 12 at Rondebosch Boys’ High, Western Cape
R20 000: Kosie van der Merwe, Grade 11 at Brackenfell High, Western Cape
R10 000: Schalk-Willem Krüger, Grade 11 at Ferdinand Postma, North West Province
R10 000: Michiel Baird, Grade 12 at Elspark High School, Gauteng
R10 000: Gwylim Ashley, Grade 11 at Oakhill School, Western Cape

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