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MozillaFest Inspires Janine Anthony To Tackle Tech Issues

I Am UWC: Honours student Janine Anthony is active in fighting web illiteracy

“Seeing kids as young as thirteen already being inventors, already developing technological solutions to real problems - that showed me that my work has just begun.”

These are the words of University of the Western Cape (UWC) student Janine Anthony (BCom Honours IS class of 2017), who was invited by the Mozilla Foundation to attend their annual Mozilla Festival in Greenwich (UK) at the University of Ravensbourne at the end of October*.

“It’s a huge international festival: three nights, two days, 402 sessions, 19 speakers from over 40 countries around the world,” says Janine. “I learned a lot there.”

The Delft-based honours student runs one of the UWC Mozilla Technology Clubs at Perseverance High School in Belhar, where she teaches Grade 9 pupils about the internet, leadership and the basics of coding.

Her concern is that we as South Africans have a lot more to do in the area of web literacy if we want to keep up with the pace of technological change around the world.

“Our learners here in South Africa are not as exposed to technology as they should be, and many schools and communities are still under-resourced when it comes to technology,” Janine says. “At schools in areas like Belhar, you’d see fully-equipped computer labs just sitting there like a white elephant, with no one to teach learners even basic computer literacy.”

She says there isn’t sufficient continuous learning in the subject, since many children do not have laptops or internet access at home or school. There also needs to be more technology subjects at school level - and schools are in a serious need of technology teachers.

“We need assistance from government to create infrastructure for community server hubs that would allow under-resourced communities internet access,” she says. “I want our kids to be included and grow to the level the rest of the world is at.”

MozFest is about fostering collaboration across disciplines, borders and continents, in a joint effort to face the biggest issues of the day - from fake news and online harassment to global cyberattacks and information technology for development. The focus is on practical, open source solutions.

“I was invited by the Mozilla Foundation to share what I do in Cape Town South Africa, share ideas of teaching and what challenges South Africans face and experience.

She proudly represented UWC and facilitated a talk about the community work she was doing in South Africa.

“I teach young children from our @mozlearn clubs and local communities web and digital literacy. I believe in empowering our future leaders with the skills they need to thrive in the digital era. The mission is to spread awareness of the internet and teaching basic coding: a whole new language for children to speak fluently and express themselves in the 21st century.

Janine works with learners from Perseverance High School in Belhar, a community in Cape Town where crime is rife.

“My focus is mainly web literacy, and I gathered insight and plans from around the world to share these skills and tools for teaching about the web in our communities.

A Group Effort: Empowering Young Tech-Savvy Leaders

Janine is grateful for the support of Dr Mmaki Jantjies, Head of Information Systems at UWC, who heads up the Mozilla Tech Club at UWC.

“Dr Jantjies assists and provides guidance in our previously disadvantaged communities, and sets a great example for us to follow,” says Janine, “and I am very proud that I can contribute to South Africa’s growth in terms of investing in our youth and the future leaders of tomorrow.”

Mozilla Clubs are all unique, but with the same objective: empower young women and girls to be able to empower themselves through tech. At UWC, each Mozilla Club is led by young pioneering leaders who are graduates in Information Systems.

“It’s all about changing the mindset of children who experience drugs, gangsterism and poverty as the norm. They are exposed to a possibility of a new life just by changing their thinking and using their tech skills to secure a comfortable future.”

Janine believes technology can be used to tackle some of society’s most pressing issues.

Last year, she was one of a team of young women from UWC’s Information Systems - including Sibabalwe Kweza, Noluthando Ntshaba, and Yandisa Citwa, known as the Sistahood - who developed an app to connect students with one another, get them to walk in groups, and alert campus security about any emergencies.

The Mozilla Festival not only sparked Janine’s insight into the dire challenges with computer science at schools, but also gave her a sense of hope.

“MozFest made me realize that even though we always assume some countries are ‘better off’, we are really faced with exactly the same challenges in our communities - and that we can learn from one another and apply solution-based initiatives to change mind-sets and add a bit of colour to our children’s dreams.”

Caption: UWC BCom Honours student Janine Anthony (IS class of 2017) from Delft was invited by the Mozilla Foundation to attend their annual Mozilla Festival in the UK.