South Africa: CodeMakers offers coding in local language

Coding should be taught at an early age says experts
only a small percentage of South African schools have been able to offer coding as a subject as it requires dedicated infrastructure and highly competent teachers.

South Africa: CodeMakers offers coding in local language
South Africa: CodeMakers offers coding in local language

eThekwini based NPO CodeMakers has made it possible for isiZulu speakers to learn how to code for free with Scratch software used by millions around the world.

Scratch 3.0 launched on January 2, 2019, translated into 48 languages. Only isiZulu and Amharic are indigenous African languages. Other languages include Mandarin, French, Arabic, Portuguese, and Spanish.

CodeMakers translated Scratch into isiZulu with help from volunteers and CodeMakers learners from Umkhumbane Secondary School in Chesterville, Durban.

“Our motivation for translating Scratch was to make coding education more accessible to more South Africans. We want young people to know that they have the power to create and that they can share their stories and experiences with the wider world,” says CodeMakers founder Justin Yarrow.

Scratch software allows children as young as 7 to learn the logic and power of computer coding. It’s also used in secondary schools and universities to introduce coding concepts before progressing to more complex coding languages.

In Scratch, users drag and drop command blocks to give instructions to the computer. Users can experiment and play while creating animations, video games and other interactive projects.

CodeMakers has taught Scratch to learners in primary and secondary schools in low-income communities of eThekwini since 2015. Learners have created projects on topics including Heritage Month, Nelson Mandela’s Centenary, and HIV/AIDS awareness and projects have been displayed at the KZNSA art gallery.

Says Yarrow, “Learning to code develops many different skills: logic, problem solving, creativity, experimentation, confidence and collaboration.

“Many of the learners will not go on to become software engineers but they develop skills, interests, and approaches to learning that they can use throughout their schooling and life.”

The latest version of Scratch, Scratch 3.0, is available offline and online, and can now be used with tablets as well as laptops and desktops. Projects can even be viewed and shared on mobile phones.

More than 37 million projects have been uploaded to the Scratch online community. Users can view the code that makes these projects work and remix the projects to personalise them.

Scratch 3.0 also allows users to program sensor and robotics platforms including the BBC MicroBit, and Lego WeDo and Mindstorms, extending their creations into the physical world.

Scratch was created and is maintained by the Scratch Team in the Lifelong Kindergarten group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab.

The annual Scratch conference, that attracts hundreds of educators from around the world, will be held in Kenya and Morocco in 2019, a first for Africa and recognition of the future of coding and innovation on the continent. ends

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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