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Nelson Mandela University and its engagement partners, Tangible Africa and the Leva Foundation are gearing up to host 10 000 youth in a coding tournament, titled #Coding4Mandela on Mandela Day.

Believed to be the biggest Mandela Day event in the country, it will see about 10 000 learners from across 70 sites in Africa and abroad (Ireland, Germany and England) participate in the #Coding4Mandela event, themed “Cultivating the coding ecosystem of the future”.

Participating African countries include Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, according to Prof Jean Greyling, Head of the Department of Computing Science at Mandela University.

The event honours the late president Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the fight for social justice and democracy in South Africa and his belief in the value of education.

Over the past few years, Prof Greyling’s team has been instrumental in introducing coding to young people to “spark an interest in maths and science among them. South Africa has a shortage of people pursuing subjects in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and performs poorly in international numeracy assessments.”

Prof Greyling explained that teaching learners how to code is a springboard for careers in science and technology, which is needed for economic growth.  “We introduce learners to coding concepts using the mobile applications, RANGERS, BOATS and TANKS, which also enhances 21st century skills such as problem solving, strategy, communication, computational thinking and group work.”

A learner practises coding 

Learners who were introduced to coding, will be eligible to participate in the #Coding4Mandela event. “This game has 30 levels of increasing complexity, introducing learners to various coding concepts that are taught in a first-year introductory module. The purpose on the day is for teams to complete on as many levels as possible in 30 minutes.”

In preparation for the day, learners do not only have to know the solutions to the levels, but they must also strategise to find the best optimised solutions. “Furthermore, they need to work out a strategy for the team of five to work as fast as possible.”

A visually impaired learner learns how to code

Prof Greyling said while the event started as a local tournament in Gqeberha in 2018, it grew exponentially to a national event last year, where 6 000 learners from all over South Africa, as well as Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia, participated.

“An additional feature this year is involving teams from the northern hemisphere. They will compete under the slogan #Coding4Mandela after their summer holidays, culminating in a virtual Coding World Cup on 5 December, which is also the 10-year anniversary of Mandela’s passing,” said Prof Greyling.

The anchor sponsor for the #Coding4Mandela event is AWSinCommunities, and other corporate sponsors include S4 Integration, VSC Solutions, MiX Telematics, SAS, BASF, National Science Week and BBD.

“Being from Nelson Mandela University, and with former president Nelson Mandela’s lifelong focus on education, it was an obvious choice to host a tournament on Mandela Day. It also allows our corporate sponsors to make a great impact towards education in our country,” said Prof Greyling.

Coding events will be hosted in Qunu, the Captivity Site outside Howick where Mandela was arrested; the Nelson Mandela Legacy Exhibition at Cape Town City Hall, where Mandela made his first speech after his release from prison; and Tangible Africa’s headquarters in Gqeberha (Nelson Mandela Bay Metro).

According to Tangible Africa’s Engagement Manager, Jackson Tshabalala, the hosts from various sites across South Africa and Africa are bubbling with excitement as they are eagerly gearing up for the tournament: “Their remarkable ownership and dedication to ensuring the success of the event is truly inspiring, showcasing their unwavering commitment to empowering learners through coding."

Each site’s organisers will challenge participants to bring along non-perishable food, which will be distributed to beneficiary organisations of their choice. Furthermore, each site will decide on their own prizes, varying from medals, cash prizes, coding kits and mobile phones.

“After our Mandela Day coding tournament, we will work with teachers from the competing schools to identify talented learners who will join our Tangible Academy to prepare them for university,” says Leva Foundation CEO Ryan le Roux.

Overall winners will be determined through a virtual round involving the winning teams from all participating #Coding4Mandela sites. Winning categories will include senior primary and high school learners.

To find out more about coding in your region or to participate in the #Coding4Mandela event, contact

Contact information
Primarashni Gower
Director: Communication & Marketing
Tel: 0415043057