ICT students win chance to fly South Africa’s flag in China
Ten students chosen to participate in Seeds for the Future programme
POPULAR as a wheat-growing area and named after the biblical Bethlehem, the Free State Province city is not an area you will envisage meeting some of the shining prospects of the global information and communications technology industry, female for that matter.
It is exactly where the duo of Mpho Anna Wittes (23) and Tholoana Motaung (22) hail from.
Sharing a room at the Central University of Technology is not the only thing in common between the two.
Coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, never in their wildest imaginations had they I imagined that one day they would be in China, the Asian country boasting arguably the biggest ICT industry, to hone their skills.
They also spent the better part of 2016 off-class as the Fees Must Fall Campaign brought terirtiary education in the country to a halt.
Now, they are among the crème de la crème of the ten university students across the country to embark on week study and cultural exchange trip to receive training in cutting-edge technologies such as 5G (fifth generation mobile networks), Long Term Evolution and cloud computing in the state-of-theart laboraties in the capital Beijing and Shenzhen, the hothouse of global innovation.
The ten South African students will fly the country’s flag high in China courtesy of a partnership between Huawei and Department of Telecommunication’s and Postal Services (DTPS) affording undergraduates to participate in the global Seeds for the Future programme.
The initiative, supported by the Chinese Embassy, is a cornerstone of government and private sector effort to address the ICT skills gap, which is mostly prevalent among girls.
Apart from Central University of Technology, other students are drawn from various subjects in the ICT sector from varsities including Durban University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, NorthWest University and Tshwane University of Technology.
Some 500 applications had been received.
To Motaung, the once-in-alifetime opportunity is even more extraordinary in that she was not on the original roll.
“I was not on the initial list. Everything was sudden after they dropped a learner who was not studying a BTEC-aligned qualification,” she said.
The trip to China is a far cry from the daily tribulations of being a single mother who fell pregnant during the first year of study.
She is the only child in her family. “I have not let the struggles of being a young, single mother get in her way for a better education and attaining skills in ICT. This is an invaluable learning opportunity for them that will broaden my knowledge beyond expectations,” she said.
Classmate Wittes, a second born from three siblings, whose mother is a pensioner related of her daily struggles to make ends meet.
“I depend on loans and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to finance my studies,” she said.
Hence, she is determined to make the most of the trip to China.
“I will use this chance to improve my life and make parents and make my country proud,” said Wittes.
Startlingly, she doesn’t have smartphone.
“Mpho, I wish that when you come back (from China) you will not only have a dream of owning a mobile smartphone but you will help develop a first affordable smartphone for South African children,”Telecommunication’s and Postal Services Minister, Siyabonga Cwele, said in Johannesburg at the send-off of the undergraduates.
“As you embark on this journey, remember you are carrying the hopes and dreams of this nation,” the minister told the beneficiaries.
He pledged support students’ contribution to building a resilient fibre network to support the next generation technology of cloud data centres in South Africa.
A Huawei corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, the global Seeds Programme runs in 96 countries with the aim of benefiting over 30 000 students.
“Every generation produces its own great character, and each exerts impact for hundreds of years. We hope this is a stepping stone for the impact that these students will make in the future,” Steven Wu, Chief Executive Officer of Huawei South Africa, said.
OPPORTUNITY: Central University of Technology lecturer Dr Noluntu Mpekoa is flanked by Mpho Anna Wittes, left, and Tholoana Veto Motaung.