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Prepared by Prof. Sitwala Imenda

Coding and Robotics Training at NATU/Imbizo Conference Centre, Empangeni

This report focuses on the NATU TDI professional teacher development activities for 2022. These have mainly been in two streams: (a) Training in Skills for a changing world, with a special focus on Coding and Robotics, under the Teacher Union Collaboration (TUC) programme, and (b) facilitation of a broader participation of NATU members in the various activities and processes initiated, particularly, by the DBE and Provincial Education Departments (PEDs).

Coding and Robotics Training in KZN Province
Coding and Robotics Training in Free State Province

The training programme in the Skills for a Changing World forms the main thrust of training for 2022. This is undertaken under the auspices of the Teacher Union Collaboration (TUC) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Unions and the Department of Basic Education (DBE). In the context of the current MOU, the TUC aims to capacitate teachers to be able to teach “skills for a changing world,” with specific reference to digital skills, coding and robotics and the related subjects of artificial intelligence, mathematics, science and technology, entrepreneurial skills and new subjects introduced to the school curriculum. This is a three-year programme starting in 2022. For the 2022 training session, NATU has identified three service providers to cater for the extreme circumstances which characterise the South African schooling system, namely, the extremely socio-economically privileged versus those who continue to wallow in conditions of extreme neglect and deprivation. This divide is manifested in the material conditions of both the schools and the teachers who work at the schools. In terms of this reality there are teachers who teach in schools that have computer laboratories and are, accordingly, able to teach Coding and Robotics in a hands-on, computer-based approach, whereas those at the extreme down-end of the socio-economic spectrum can only dream of the day they will have the privilege of sighting a computer – let alone have a computer laboratory in their schools.

Accordingly, having carefully considered the circumstances sketched above, the CEB and the TDI, have identified three service providers for the training of Lead Teachers who will, in turn, be tasked to cascade this training down to other teachers. In this regard, Intel Skills for Innovation (SFI) South Africa Corporation has been identified to provide training to teachers who either have computer laboratories in their schools or, themselves, own laptops and other devices which enable online and virtual learning. The training offered by Intel SFI requires that participants work from a computer keyboard and have network connectivity. The second and third service providers are Nelson Mandela University (NMU), and Karen Walstra Consulting (KWC), which have separately developed training / learning materials based on the notion of Unplugged Coding and Robotics. They mainly use smart phones, games and ordinary materials commonly found in the day- to-day environment or can be easily procured. The appeal of the ‘unplugged’ approach is that they, ostensibly, introduce participants to the same concepts, skills and competences which are core to understanding Coding and Robotics without using personal computers (PC’s) and laptops.

Training Information
The training has kicked off and will take place in two phases. The first phase has already been completed and focused on the training of Lead Teachers.

The Phase I training of Lead Teachers has so far gone very well and Phase II training of other teachers is about to be rolled out by the Lead Teachers, trained in Phase I. The scheduling of this training will be made by each Lead Teacher and coordinated by the NATU TDI, in liaison with PED officials, fulltime shop stewards, regional and branch officials.
However, no sooner had the above training kicked off than NATU Head Office became inundated with enquiries from members based in the North West, Gauteng and Limpopo provinces about training in Coding and Robotics after they heard that such training was taking place in other parts of the country. Consequently, NATU national leadership has directed that two one-day workshops be held to cover our members in these three provinces. In addition, while in Mpumalanga, we noticed that a large area of the province was not represented at the training at White River, Nelspruit. We are planning that one session be held to train teachers in the areas covering Mkhondo, Ermelo, Carolina, Middelburg, and Emalahleni. We intend to do this within the allocated budget, as it appears to be morally reprehensible to leave them out altogether.

PED Collaboration and Support
Whereas Phase I training took place during the June/July school holidays, the support of the PEDs will be crucial during Phase II in four main respects:

  • To free Lead Teachers to conduct training where weekdays may be involved
  • To free teachers to attend training where weekdays may be involved
  • To assist NATU to identify teachers to be trained, bearing in mind that some teachers may already have been trained in Coding and Robotics by other service providers
  • To assign Subject Advisors to support Lead Teachers in (and when) delivering the training.


The strength of a member-based organisation, such as NATU, depends on the active participation of members in the various activities which make the organisation visible.

The added benefit of this to the individual members is that through their active participation they learn many hard and soft skills. Furthermore, the networking that inevitably results from such participation is often very important in broadening one’s horizons – intellectually, professionally and socially. Accordingly, it is very important not only to encourage but promote member participation in the various affairs of the sector. In this regard, over the past few years, members have been given opportunities to participate in a variety of activities – including meetings, workshops, serving on evaluation and monitoring panels as well as specialist subject panels.

Lately, members’ participation in many activities has been formalised and accountability worked into the activity. This includes ensuring that every member is written a letter formally asking him/her to represent the organisation at the specific event and subsequently submit a report upon return. This is one way in which the Institute has promoted broader participation of NATU members in the various activities and processes, particularly those involving the DBE and Provincial Education Departments (PEDs).

In conclusion, it may be said that the philosophy, shape and essence of the NATU TDI have broadened over the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to reconceptualise professional teacher development beyond the definition of a physical venue. Much of what happened after the February 2020 TUC training shifted the notion of training to embrace online and virtual platforms. We applaud members who were able to make the switch, almost instantaneously, from face-to-face to online and virtual platforms in order to benefit from the training that was offered online and virtually. With the current focus on ‘skills for a changing world’, there is no going back. We therefore urge members to be flexible enough to respect to training whenever it is organised, regardless of the training platform. In the current year, we believe that the rollout of the ‘skills for a changing world – coding and robotics’ will continue to attract patronage. We contend that, despite not being based on an approved curriculum, this programme will contribute positively to the professional development of the participants – and, in turn, the growth of the learners who are in the hands of these teachers. We also urge members to continue accepting our invitations to participate in DBE and PED activities in order to actively contribute to the national educational landscape, while broadening their intellectual, professional and personal horizons.