ONE in every 200 coders globally is reportedly blind or visually impaired – and, thanks to some innovative education initiatives, the massive digital divide in South Africa is gradually closing for visually impaired youth.
The Bona Africa programme, in collaboration with SADTU, this year started with Tactile Coding Workshops – where coding concepts are introduced to blind and visually impaired youth and their teachers. Vocational training is also offered to learners who have completed their schooling.
Blind and visually impaired students from across South Africa attend the Hein Wagner Academy in Worcester in the Western Cape. Cyber Security Trainer and Coordinator Len Viljoen said through various industry collaborations, the academy is offering a Cyber Security Programme which was piloted in 2020.
“Because of the rise of technology and the constant threat of cyber-attacks, the need for cyber security experts and analysts has increased exponentially. We believe with the right training, visually impaired individuals can play their part in the war against cyber-crime,” said Viljoen.
Depending on the learnership sponsor, the programme usually consists of two components. Firstly, a national qualification in the form of a NQF level certification. Secondly, the academy offers an international component consisting of various certifications including, but not limited to, CompTia A+,Network+ and Security+, as well as certifications from Cisco.
“We are a training provider for both CompTia and Cisco and are also going to start AWS training. This ensures our students get up-to-date training. With these industry grade certifications, people will start to realise that visually impaired individuals need job opportunities too.”
Ncebakazi Tyalisi, 31, from Willowvale in the Eastern Cape, joined the Hein Wagner Academy to pursue a career in IT and cyber-security. “I find the programme very empowering, especially for me a a rural blind girl with no prior background in IT. It gives me hope for the future that I’m being trained to excel in a field dominated by the sighted world,” said Tyalisi.
While the Hein Wagner Academy only opened in 2019, the department for career development of the Pioneer School – its predecessor – has offered programming and coding training since the 1990’s.
Viljoen welcomed Tangible Africa’s efforts to make coding training available at primary and high school level to help prepare visually impaired students for careers in the IT field.
Bona Africa, a partnership between Tangible Africa and Bona uBuntu, has recently trained teachers from schools for the visually impaired across all nine provinces during a series of workshops where teachers were equipped with tactile tools and the TANKS Coding App to introduce learners to coding.
“The earlier any person can be introduced to IT-related concepts, especially coding, the better. This is no different for visually impaired people. If the groundwork is laid, there are no limit to the heights these individuals can achieve,” said Viljoen.
Tangible Africa Founder and Head of the Department and Associate Professor at the Nelson Mandela University Computing Sciences Department, Prof Jean Greyling, welcomed the vocational opportunities for VIPs and blind youth in South Africa.
For more information contact email Prof Jean Greyling: Jean.Greyling@mandela.ac.za