Nemato Change a Life (NCAL) offers a holistic set of youth empowerment programmes for disadvantaged youth from Nemato, Thornhill and Station Hill.
NCAL aims to give youth the mindset, knowledge, skills and support to escape from poverty, for success in life.
Computing at NCAL
Coding has become a key element of the NCAL programme, all the way from basics with a program named Tanks to real coding in HTML, C# and Python.
“Coding is a crucial skill for many future careers, and it’s a great way to train logical thinking, said Blom.
Four members have joined a Chicago-based robotics team. With three zoom sessions per week they are working on a robot to help people to become more physically active.
“We are going high-tech in the township,” commented Blom.
Tanks was developed by Nelson Mandela University professor Jean Greyling. Users put their coding together with puzzle pieces. The phone app scans the pieces and moves the tank according to the code. The concept of moving forward, backward and turning is much easier than the abstract concepts of mathematics, but to drive the tank around obstacles to a target needs a lot of thinking.
Nemato members were spoilt by professor Greyling after completing the course.
“Siyanda updates our website weekly, using HTML,” Blom said, who then went on to explain the philosophy NCAL has adopted with regard to computing.
“Unfortunately school teachers have to rush through thick maths books and teach their students tricks, like solving equations, to pass the tests. This undermines the natural creativity and curiosity of children. In the NCAL maths classes they try to leverage these natural attributes by making maths real, visual, exciting and accessible to all.
“We go down to basics, to help our students understand concepts and experience the universal power and beauty of mathematics,” explained Blom. “By going back to basics we also fill the gaps in the foundation of maths, and by grouping our members in levels, everybody gets a chance to catch up and move ahead, independent of their grade at school.
“To make maths practical and relevant, instead of solving equations, we build equations. We build them to address real issues in our organisation or in the lives of our members. Once we have an equation, we use it in a spreadsheet or in coding and let the computer calculate the answers for us. In that way we combine the power of humans asking questions and translating them into mathematics, with the power of computers in calculating and solving equations.
“We strongly believe we have to move away from focusing on training young people to become calculators. We see deep understanding of mathematical concepts and computer based problem solving as the two pillars of mathematics necessary for success in the fourth industrial revolution.”
NCAL has taken its first step towards sustainable fish farming which involves harvesting fly larvae from waste food and turning it into fish feed. They now have the first black soldier flies in this brand new fly farm pilot project. The next step is to get fish tanks to start a small fish farm.
NCAL connected its two buildings to make one centre. Most building work was done by the members: learning by doing and building their own place, using the club’s favourite building material, sandbags.
NCAL’s main funder, the Mike Thomson Change a Life Trust, has a new sponsor: Citi, the leading global investment banking and financial services group, headquartered in New York.
Blom thanked the Nemato Foundation for donating a new projector with screen.
Good school shoes are expensive and many families struggle to buy them. “We received a very generous donation of strong school shoes for our most committed members. Many thanks to Prof Brenda Scholtz and Prof Jean Greyling of Nelson Mandela University and Godfrey Jacobs.”
Nadine Haynes donated lots of preschool toys. NCAL identified two disadvantaged preschools for her, which receive no funding and are in much need of support.
NCAL offers many learning opportunities from doing Sudoku to house wiring, and from bookkeeping to carpentry. “You are never too young to learn,” said Blom.
“Congratulations also to Siphamandla and Sinoyolo. They were selected for a Blue Flag tourism learnership. Siphamandla is doing his learnership at the award-winning Royal St Andrews Hotel and Sinoyolo at the Royal Alfred Marina.”
For months NCAL has been without tap water. “We share our rainwater with the community, but our tank ran dry,” Blom explained. “Thanks to Josh, Robin and others for filling up our tank.”
NCAL was recently in Makanda for a President’s Award leaders’ meeting. NCAL members can join the awards programme and receive bronze, silver and gold awards for completing sport, skills training, community service and hike.
Preschools can apply for government lockdown support, but the application process is online and complicated. Blom invited the Port Alfred and Bathurst townships preschools to the office and helped with the applications.