In a world where one in every 200 coders is blind or visually impaired, South Africa is witnessing a remarkable transformation in the lives of visually impaired youth. Innovative and inclusive education initiatives are breaking barriers and opening doors to new opportunities.
The Bona Africa program, in partnership with SADTU, is leading the charge by introducing Tactile Coding Workshops for blind and visually impaired youth and their teachers. These workshops not only teach coding concepts, but also offer vocational training to graduates.
The Hein Wagner Academy, located in Worcester, is at the forefront of this movement. They are offering a Cyber Security Program, recognizing the increasing demand for experts in the field. Len Viljoen, the Cyber Security Trainer and Coordinator, believes that with the right training, visually impaired individuals can become formidable allies in the fight against cybercrime. The program provides national and international certifications, ensuring that students receive relevant and up-to-date training.
Ncebakazi Tyalisi, 31, who is originally from the small village of Willowvale in the Eastern Cape, joined the Hein Wagner Academy in the hope of one day pursuing a career in IT and cyber-security.
“The programme has been great, I especially enjoyed it when it started. The journey is a rollercoaster, but fulfilling at the same time. I find the programme very empowering personally and professionally, and especially for me, being a rural blind girl with no prior background in IT. It gives a sense of hope for the future and also a sense of worth, knowing that I am being trained to excel in a field which is dominated by the sighted world,” said Tyalisi.
She described the field of cyber-security as rewarding, in-demand and constantly evolving with a range of diverse roles she hopes to pursue after her studies. While the Hein Wagner Academy is relatively new, the Pioneer School’s career development department has been providing coding training since the 1990s, showing the long-standing commitment to empowering visually impaired individuals.
Tangible Africa’s efforts are also commendable. They are making coding training available at primary and high school levels, equipping visually impaired students with essential skills. The recent teacher training workshops across all provinces have equipped educators with the tools to introduce coding to visually impaired learners. Len Viljoen emphasizes the importance of early exposure to coding, stating that there are no limits to what visually impaired individuals can achieve when the groundwork is laid.
In a world where diversity and inclusion are celebrated, these initiatives serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of visually impaired youth in South Africa. They prove that with the right support, training, and determination, anyone can reach new heights and break through barriers.