Changing the world through technology

Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, a former Minister of Higher Education, urging pupils to be part of the changing world through technology.

An NGO is on a mission to make sure township children are at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Nolwazi Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM), an academy advocating for education on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was in Gugulethu last week, spreading its “gospel” about the need for children to familiarise themselves with new technologies in a rapidly changing world.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution describes a growing convergence between machines, including artificial intelligence and humanity. And science, technology, engineering and maths, (so-called STEM education) are seen as key subjects in helping children adapt to a world where many of the jobs they will do once they leave school don’t exist yet.

On a rainy Thursday at both ID Mkhize and Intshukumo high schools, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, a former Minister of Higher Education, told the pupils that Stem subjects, which include the fields of chemistry, computers, information technology, physics, astronomy, life sciences and more, were vital for them and their future.

Last week’s campaign was aimed at girls, because Professor Mkhize said females tended to be under-represented in technology fields.

Professor Mkhize said pupils would need new skills to meet the demands of a world using advanced technologies, automation, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics and self-driving cars.

“We need to have engagements with young people in townships and rural areas. We believe that no one must be left behind… Let us unlock the development of young people.”

ID Mkhize principal, Zola Pahlane, said the country’s education system needed an overhaul to meet the demands of a new age. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, he said, was not something happening tomorrow; it was happening today, and he pointed to
banks retrenching people who were made redundant by new technology as an example of that.

“We welcome the opportunity to address pupils on such important issues. There is a whole buzz around the world about 4IR. It is about the future, and the future is now. It has indeed arrived. If people think it is far away, they are wrong.”

School curricula would need to change to adapt to the new world, he said, adding that he was excited about the Fourth Industrial Revolution because it was about pupils making informed decisions.