Google South Africa today 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,” said Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, policy and government affairs at 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,” said Mgwili-Sibanda.
The official launch of CS First comes off the back of a successful pilot project that saw 2,400 learners from selected South African public schools and two 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,” said 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.”