I feel almost like a groom at a traditional Afrikaans wedding: “baie, baie dankie”. But at least I know any chirps will only be coming at the end of what I have to say.
This weekend, Stellenbosch University hosted a Python programming course I co-organized with a number of members of the UCT algorithm circle. We hosted 85 children between Grade 4 and 12 from around 55 schools. With the dust finally settling, I thought I’d just throw out some thanks to all the people who got involved to make the course (part of Project Umonya) the success it was.
First, the guys from the UCT algorithm circle: Primary thanks go to Marco, who did an incredible amount of remote organizing on the course while busy with his internship at Google’s Zurich office. Robert also deserves my thanks for all his organizational efforts, including taking queries from parents, designing the tutors’ T-shirts and the participants’ flash drives, and lecturing during the course. Kosie, thanks for setting up the resource pack for the learners to take home, and for presenting the intro Maths lecture. Stefano and Vaughn – thanks for all your work with the cameras and video streaming. Michiel, thanks for the co-ordination and monitoring work you did during the course, as well as the photography and video work. Graham: thanks for your lectures, for the visual python session on Sunday morning, and your lunch-time talk on your experience in industry. Thanks to Hayley for giving lectures, helping me with admin during the course, and running the energisers for the kids when their attention was flagging. Henk also deserves thanks for the lectures he gave.
Next, I’d like to thank our sponsors, the MIH electronic media lab, and particularly Gert-Jan, who agreed to sponsor us and Anita van der Spuy, who helped (actually, is still helping!) with the finances. I’d also like to thank our secretary at Computer Science, Azra, for her help with admin, logistics, quotes, and handling queries, and Derick for helping her and me with photocopying and postage.
This course would not have been possible without lab space, and we are very grateful to the administrators of the NARGA computer labs: Ilse, Paul, and Ed. I’d also like to thank the Stellenbosch University Science Faculty representative, Engela, for her help promoting the course in various newspapers, and even arranging a radio interview about the course.
To enhance the course, we had a couple of additional talks and lessons. Besides Graham, who I’ve already mentioned, I’d like to thank Willem Visser, the division head at Stellenbosch University computer science, who spoke on “Why you should all become Computer Scientists”, Andre Scholtz from Derivco, who gave the children a short intro on game development in Python, and Helge Reikeras from the MIH electronic media lab who gave an introduction to Ubuntu, for their talks.
The quality of such a course depends heavily on the availability of enough tutors to help the children when they get stuck. Besides most of the people from the UCT algorithm circle mentioned above, I’d like to thank the other tutors: Gwylim from the UCT Algorithm Circle; Helge, Leendert, and John – students at the MIH electronic media lab; Gideon, Pieter Holtzhausen, Pieter van der Walt, Jan, Gerard, J-P, and Lise – undergrad and postgrad students at Stellenbosch University; my colleague at Computer Science, McElory Hoffmann; Ewald, from S1; Johan, from Juizi web hosting; and Maia, from the South African Ubuntu Loco. [Also, Jock and his friend from Oxford, who McElory roped in as they walked past NARGA!]
I’d also like to thank Andries for tutoring, and both him and my wife, Dalene, for hosting the lecturers and tutors from the UCT algorithm circle who came to help for the weekend.
Our suppliers also deserve a thank-you for delivering timeously despite last minute orders: Curve Concepts for the flash drives, Screen Tee Printing for the T-Shirts, and Fedics Stellenbosch who supplied the packed lunches.
Finally, a thank-you to all the school principals, secretaries, maths teachers, science teachers and computer lab administrators who told their learners about the courses, encouraged them to apply, and sent us motivations for the children who applied to help us in sifting through the applications. Please note that applications for the courses to be held next year are already open (although the dates aren’t finalized yet) – please send your interested learners to http://www.umonya.co.za/apply.