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Friday, April 19, 2024

Second Cohort of Students Graduate from WSU-Samsung Innovation Campus

Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in collaboration with Samsung are proudly hosting an award ceremony in Mdantsane for the second cohort of 25 students who – through the Samsung Innovation Campus (SIC) – are the first in Africa to graduate in Artificial Intelligence (AI) education, with the ultimate aim of curbing unemployment in the Eastern Cape.

Since the dawn of democracy when Samsung entered the African continent through the establishment of the South African office, the company has been investing in education-focused Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes for the future, which have now led to positive social changes within the broader African continent. This WSU-SIC programme is one of the ways that Samsung is commemorating SA’s 30-year anniversary of democracy.

In the recent state of the nation address (SONA), the President said: “While economic growth is essential to reduce unemployment, we cannot wait to provide the work that many of democracy’s children need. Having a job does not only provide an income – it is fundamental to people’s sense of self-worth, dignity, hope, purpose and inclusion.”

This year’s graduation in both C&P and AI education, specifically, is very significant as it fits perfectly into Samsung’s current AI technology strategy and vision. Importantly, two female graduates from WSU’s East London campus who are deeply passionate about the potential of technology had this to say about their experience in the programme.

Somila Mdletshe, 22-year old female student who’s born and bred in East London said: “My time exploring Artificial Intelligence has been profoundly impactful, providing me with essential skills and invaluable insights that I am excited to apply in the future. With this WSU-SIC programme, I feel like I’ve embarked on a journey of learning, growth and discovery; and I have absolutely no doubt that the impact of the collective efforts will be felt for years to come.”

This new group of graduates that come from Mdantsane township and various areas of South Africa are now part of the full programme that seeks to boost youth employment in the technology sector by empowering them with Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) skills in the field of AI, C&P and Internet of Things (IOT). Last year, a group of 21 students were inducted to kickstart the C&P programme and 19 of them graduated.

Tshililo Mungoni, 21-year-old female student originally from Limpopo but resides in Johannesburg said: “My coding journey at WSU Samsung Innovation Campus has been transformative, equipping me with skills and a new career path in Business Intelligence (BI) & Data Analysis. We had hands-on project and practical experience, which has allowed us the opportunity to apply Python in real-world scenarios and gain tangible skills in data visualisation tools and techniques. I am honoured to be part of this innovative community.”

Fostered through the institution’s Centre for Entrepreneurship Rapid Incubator (CfERI), this graduation is further evidence that this partnership between WSU and Samsung has indeed brought this one-of-a-kind programme that aims to continue offering the much-needed skills in basic C&P as well as AI education to the province’s youth. For these partners, the priority and measurable impact for this programme continues to be the absorption of these students into employment, however this youth is also encouraged to consider opportunities as entrepreneurs in Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

Lenhle Khoza, B-BBEE and Transformation Manager at Samsung said: “As a global technology giant, we have long recognised the significance of AI and how it has rapidly emerged as one of the most prominent, future technologies. Our collective quest of seeking to provide education through the latest and most advanced technology is essential in keeping the youth abreast and well-educated in the most relevant, emerging technologies in the world.”

And furthermore, both parties are pleased with the overall, profound effect that this programme has had on these graduates. Stats do not lie: the student’s technology capability growth rate is now sitting at 69% compared to when the programme started. Also important to note is that, none of the students from this second cohort have dropped out of the programme, the attendance rate was 96% and 100% of them are graduating.

Dr Thobekani Lose at WSU said: “As an institution that is proudly celebrating a second group of students that are graduating in 4IR skills – we understand the importance of teaching and leveraging AI in the country’s education. Samsung’s continued investment and its partnership with our institution is of utmost importance because it ensures that we are training our students to use AI tools and platforms effectively, ensuring that they can maximise the benefits of these new and emerging technologies in their future careers.”

Importantly, Dr Lose believes that, one day, the theoretical education combined with the practical skills imparted to these students during this SIC programme will enable them to make a meaningful contribution, not only in their jobs or businesses but also in society as a whole.

“As Samsung, we are thrilled that our global initiative that is aimed at empowering the leaders of tomorrow and equipping them with 4IR skills, in particular AI needed by the ICT industry and the local economy; is indeed starting to fulfil the need to realise meaningful change,” concluded Khoza.

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