Change the world


Matthew 25 is a well-known scripture referring to Jesus challenging us as his followers to reach out to those who are hungry and thirsty, without clothes and in jail.

For many this is an encouragement to get involved in what I want to classify as short term outreach, or simply called charity.

In any functional society, this is an integral and muchneeded component.

Taking care of the people in immediate need is critical and cannot be undervalued.

As an academic in computer science, I started to see another application of this scripture.

Since 2016, I have been involved in obtaining and sourcing bursaries for our students from various entities.

These bursaries have made it possible for numerous students to complete their studies in computer science and information systems.

Within the job market of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), our graduates are well sought after, and the vast majority are employed shortly after completing their degrees.

I always encourage the bursary recipients to write us an email of gratitude after graduation, which we then forward to their sponsors.

Consequently, we have received many emails from students, but one feedback always stands out — an SMS I received early in January 2019:

“Prof, I am on the train back home, after my first day at work. Thank you to all who made it possible!”

I immediately forwarded this to the woman we deal with at the sponsoring entity.

Her response was just as heart-warming: 

“Prof, we must celebrate each young person we get active in the economy.” 

These words I will never forget. For me this is the way I believe I can be obedient to Matthew 25. 

In a country where our economy is growing more and more dependent on careers in science and technology, every young person we can get employed as a software developer, an engineer or a data scientist, is something to celebrate.

The important spin-offs of science and technology are the “next-level” jobs created by it.

Uber and Airbnb come to mind, resulting in the employment of thousands of people who do not necessarily have technology skills.

The ripple effects of one person finding employment, on immediate family and, more importantly, on future generations, must not be underestimated.

A harsh reality that remains is that the 4IR, while creating new jobs, is making others obsolete.

This creates a huge challenge for a country such as SA, where 16,000 of our 25,000 schools do not have computers.

How do we live out this application of Matthew 25 in those communities?

We cannot be complacent about millions of pupils missing out.

For the teachers and parents in these communities, this causes an emotion I call “anxiety of missing out”.

I feel it is a futile exercise to try to install computer labs in 16 000 schools.

Our department in partnership with the Leva Foundation has been rolling out the Tangible Africa programme introducing pupils to coding concepts without the need of computers.

Across all nine provinces, we have reached more than 60,000 pupils in direct workshops, and introduced nearly 20,000 teachers to coding.

Through this movement, pupils are made aware of many science and technology careers.

Furthermore, many other 21st century skills are enhanced, such as group work, strategy, problem solving, computational thinking and communication.

Any programme that reaches out to under-resourced schools, introducing pupils to these skills, contributes greatly to preparing them for the 4IR job market.

The government, industry, and broader society must make this investment in our country’s future.

As an important side note, let us applaud every teacher who implants these skills day after day in the classroom.

As part of our coding programme in Tsomo (local municipality), Gqeberha (Nelson Mandela Bay iHub) and Cape Town (Fathers’ House church), we are presenting maths, language and coding tutoring in venues made available to us at no cost, often by professionals volunteering their time.

In most communities, churches are often the entities with the most underused assets, whether they are buildings, other resources, or skills in the pews every Sunday.

The term “sweating your assets” comes to mind — making your assets work, in this case for the greater good. My plea is that churches and their congregations will view education and upskilling as a ministry just as important as Sunday school and youth evenings.

Do some research, engage with your communities, and identify how you can contribute towards empowering the youth.

While the Matthew 25 call for short-term intervention remains important, having the long view of getting people active in the economy will change a society.

Our country desperately needs this today.

Since the danger of science and technology “taking away jobs” is real, it is our responsibility to prepare our youth for the 21st century.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 14 November 2022, written by Prof Jean Greyling of the Computing Sciences Department at Mandela University.

Contact information
Prof. Jean Greyling
Head of Department & Associate Professor
Tel: 27 41 504 2081