Sadtu introduces robotics and coding to visually impaired pupils

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has embarked on a programme to introduce coding and robotics to visually impaired and blind pupils across the country.

Working with other unions in education as part of the Teacher Union Collaboration programme, Tangible Africa and Bona uBuntu, Sadtu is training teachers, who educate visually impaired and blind pupils in coding and robotics.

Through the unplugged coding and robotics training, Sadtu aims to train 600 teachers from schools catering for the visually impaired pupils from all nine provinces by the end of this month.

Workshops have already been conducted in some special schools in Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.

The largest teacher union in the country held a workshop in Kempton Park on Thursday to train teachers in Gauteng.

Sadtu vice-president Faseega Solomon said the union is working with the national Department of Basic Education, all nine provincial education departments and the other top five major unions in the country, to promote the project.

She said 16 000 teachers from mainstream schools were trained in unplugged robotics and coding last year. This year, the training is being extended to teachers working with the visually impaired and blind.

“This year we decided to focus on implementing our inclusive agenda and bring the skill to the visually impaired, blind and learners with special needs to ensure that we contribute to a fully inclusive education system that everyone can access.

“It is about Sadtu promoting an education system that is fully inclusive.”

She said the union is training 100 teachers who work with pupils with special needs in Gauteng schools.

Head of the department of computing sciences at the Nelson Mandela University and a representative of Tangible Africa Prof Jean Greyling said the programme focuses on bringing coding and robotics to schools that have no computers.

“Learners would use their phones for coding; however, it was not accessible to the blind and visually impaired learners.

“For the blind, we have printed the challenges that are used on phones in 3D so that they are included as well. It is possible for a blind learner to become a software developer; one out of 200 developers in the world are blind,” said Greyling.

One of the pupils Masibulele Naki, 17, from Khanyisa Special School in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, said he has learnt a lot from the programme.

“The experience was good and I won the competition against other schools in our region. With this new skill, I can solve problems, and the more I play the game the better my thinking process becomes,” said the grade 9 pupil.

Thoko Jack, a teacher from Leema Mokotuli school in Sebokeng, south of Joburg, said being at the workshop had given her an opportunity to learn new things. “I just wish we could get computers at our school so that we can pass this information to the learners because we are here to learn on their behalf.”

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