An exciting initiative is bringing the latest digital and game design technology to a new generation of urban techies. Creative Code is a partnership between UCT students and Khayelitsha’s IkamvaYouth organization in a project designed to expand access to South Africa’s Information and Technology sector. It is also a World Design Capital 2014 project.
According to Dr. Marion Walton of UCT’s Centre for Film and Media Studies (CFMS), very few South African children are exposed to IT and digital media at school. “In the first place, computer access at school level is pretty low at around 33%. It's quite shocking though that access to the kind of subject teaching that forms a foundation for digital media careers is even more limited, and in the case of Information Technology, the numbers are dropping” says Marion. IkamvaYouth is a volunteer-driven youth development organization for high-school learners in township schools and Creative Code is a digital literacy programme that teaches youngsters the basics in programming and visual design. The partnership involves teaching modules that are practical, low-cost and that utilize Open Source software. Not only do IkamvaYouth students acquire technical skills but they are also exposed to further academic and career opportunities available within the digital media sector.
For a number of youngsters, their first encounter with computers occurs when, and if, they enroll at tertiary institutions. According to Marion, 2013 data indicates that only 1% of South African matriculants access ICT and Visual Art curricula at school. Creative Code aims to bridge the technology gap created by poorly resourced schools, through teaching digital coding using the visual design language Processing, and drawing on African visual traditions, digital media, games design and web-making. A key project innovation is the use of mobile platforms to teach as well as to create digital content. Given the proliferation of mobile phones and the limited access to computers at school (and at home), students are encouraged to learn utilizing their mobile phones. Creative Code programming classes are presented every Friday from 3pm to 4pm at the Nazeema Isaacs Library in Khayelitsha.
The benefits of this partnership extend to UCT students also. CFMS) students are encouraged to volunteer in the media literacy programme at IkamvaYouth and Computer Science postgraduates are involved in teaching programming concepts and physical computing at the site. Several postgraduate students have conducted action research and participatory design projects at IkamvaYouth and the department has been able to recruit ‘Ikamvanites’ who are now registered at UCT for courses such as Media and Writing or Computer Science, thanks to the interaction with UCT staff and student through this project.
“Game development and visual design allows young people to use their existing knowledge of digital media to understand the power and importance of computer programming in the creative and entertainment industries” says Marion. Following their prize-winning pitch (in May 2014) which won a R10 000 prize from the Word Design Capital 2014 initiative, Creative Code have since launched a crowd- funding campaign on Thundafund to raise R32 000 towards the renovation of a computer lab in Makhaza and towards publishing their lessons in mobile format to reach a wider audience. So far, an additional R10 700 has been raised through crowd-funding and now the initiative hopes to attract corporate funding.