Microsoft’s global vice president of Education, Anthony Salcito, is in the country to speak about how the company is aiming to empower educators and inspire students. To that end, Microsoft is set to provide IT training and opportunities to young South Africans in an effort to better prepare them with the computational-thinking and problem-solving skills necessary in a digital world. This initiative is achieved through partnerships with government, non-profit organisations, as well as local businesses.
Investing in the classroom
Globally, Microsoft has committed to investing an estimated $75 million (more than R1 billion) over the next three years in community programs to increase access to computer science education, particularly for those from underrepresented backgrounds, with the goal of building greater diversity in the tech talent pipeline.
"More and better education, combined with early access to the tools and skills used in the workplace, are proven to help create healthier communities, economies and workers who are ready to enter the workforce,” said Salcito. "At Microsoft we are committed to empowering this next generation of workers by building skills, providing access to technology, and giving young people tools to support their learning," he added.
Tech head start
In South Africa, Microsoft believes educators face a variety of challenges, with the utilisation of technology to help make lessons more accessible and entertaining for students a specific one. As such, tech is seen as very important in a country where schools face a rate of less than 45% when it comes to participation in Maths and Science and a staggering 60% of schools have no computer lab facilities.
“Local initiatives such as the MIE (Microsoft Innovative Educator) expert program helps local teachers to integrate technology into their lesson plans and make use of inventive teaching methods to not only ensure that students know how to use technology but are enabled to create technology, empowering them to become future innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs who will drive local economic growth, create jobs and solve problems within their communities,” says Zoaib Hoosen, managing director of Microsoft South Africa.
Looking to the future
“Microsoft plans on playing an active role to ensure that SA realises this statistic by developing skills and providing opportunities for young people from basic education through to starting their own businesses. This will be done through programmes such as Student to Business programme whereby we are partnering to create over 1500 jobs through internships and the AppFactory programme in which we are training interns to develop over 800 locally relevant apps. These initiatives will help us create a bridge to employment and financial independence,” adds Hoosen.
In addition, Microsoft is sponsoring a year-long exhibition at Sci-Bono in Braamfontein, Johannesburg which will be used to showcase the future of the classroom to local learners and teachers. This exhibition will feature various gadgets and applications including devices from Pinnacle that will enable visitors to get hands on experience in the use of apps like Word, Excel, Skype and OneNote. The case for gamification in the classroom will also be made as a driver of curiosity, persistence, concentration, and student engagement through educational games such as Minecraft. The exhibition was unveiled to media yesterday, and will be opened up to the public next week, remaining so for one year.