Cape Town, South Africa – 6th August 2018 – As part of our focus on National Women’s Month we shine a light on one of the AI Expo Africa community charities and we hear from Starting Chance Founder & Board Member /  CEO Dr. Ian Corbett and his mission to “Future Ready” Children to not only break out of poverty, but to innovate too.

All South African children will need to be future ready if we are going to release the latent innovation potential that is currently hidden in the townships surrounding Cape Town. There is a lot to do if we are to achieve it.

 The 2017 IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking ranked SA 47 out of 63 countries according to three factors: knowledge, technology and future readiness. In a country renowned for its lagging literacy (science and maths especially) levels and critical youth unemployment – one in three young people was unemployed in the first quarter of 2018 – improved literacy is the only way to catalyse pivotal socio-economic inclusion. Technology, digitisation and AI are some of the best means of improving literacy and giving our youth a starting chance. But time isn’t on our side. 

With Industry 4.0 looming, the connectivity gap is only going to exacerbate an already alarming global digital divide. In South Africa, an unequal education system provides limited ICT-training to 0-6 year-olds in ECD-phase. This disadvantages children, setting them up to play catch-up for the duration of their education and, often, well into adulthood. A dearth of computer-literate teachers in poorer schools means that even when the tools are provided, teachers aren’t given the necessary ongoing training and support to know how to use them. 

The Founders Story

Dr Ian Corbett, Chairman and Founder Trustee of Starting Chance was born into a Children’s Home in Newport, South Wales. Had two, amazing people not decided one day to give him a “Starting Chance” when he was a few months old, he might have suffered a similar fate to many thousands of impoverished, orphaned and vulnerable children that live in South African Townships ( read more here ) and went on to a successful career and the creation of Starting Chance.

ian corbett

Committed to giving children in poverty-stricken communities the best possible start in life

Starting Chance – a registered South African NGO committed to giving children in poverty-stricken communities the best possible start in life – is working hard to address the challenge. The NGO invests in the development of educares in the Mfuleni community. These centres are often run by women entrepreneurs who face big challenges, including an ongoing lack of funds as over 20% of parents in the area can’t afford to pay school fees, even though these are as low as R150 a month. Starting Chance partners with these women, providing them with new infrastructure and resources – including computer and tablet training facilities – plus ongoing teacher and professional development training. This gives close to 3000 children a starting chance annually.

starting chance

Access to technology is a key element in Starting Chance’s approach to nurture “tech savvy” children. Tablet time is very popular, and parents know that experiencing them early on will give their children the opportunity to become competitive with their counterparts in privileged schools. Carefully integrated into the learning programme, tablets assist children in poor communities to overcome some important learning gaps ensuring they are ready for primary school.

starting chance women

Read more about the Women of Mfuleni

Up-scaling the programme year-on-year is giving more children across the community the real possibility of avoiding the education poverty trap. This also uniquely positions us from a technology perspective by giving us a footprint across the entire township. Currently we are upgrading Sakhuluntu Educare by providing a new Grade-R classroom for 35 children. Emmanuel educare will follow soon, and our aim is to upgrade Mzamomhle Educare before the start of the 2019 academic year – this will bring another 250 children online. Bringing the upgraded facilities online will require significant expansion of our high-speed broadband network across Mfuleni. When completed it will provide the platform we need to take our training and development online, enabling Starting Chance to accelerate teacher development and radically improve access to high-quality early learning programmes.

starting chance class

The future is theirs – ours, and yours to grasp. Taking training and development online brings new challenges. High-quality content has to be developed that is tailored to enable effective skills transfer to teachers who themselves often didn’t have a starting chance. We have the knowledge to create it – we need help to realise it.  It also means that we have to upgrade our network hardware to ensure line of sight between schools in the network – we need help to make it happen. 

What you can do?

If you want to make a difference and impact lives both young and old contact Ian and the Starting Chance team directly using the following options

About AI Expo Africa

Taking place on 9-11 September 2018, Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, South Africa, AI Expo Africa 2018 is focusing on real world applications & trends driving the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Economy in Africa and seeking to build the largest Business focused AI Community across the continent. With 400+ delegates, 50 speakers, 40+exhibitors in the Expo Hall, Innovation Cafe & Demo Zone, the event is aimed at CxO / C Suite delegates with the primary goal of educating business leaders about AI applications and opportunities impacting the Enterprise today as well as generating real business and learning opportunities for sponsors, speakers & AI innovators across the region. If you would like to join the event as a delegate or would like take up one of the exhibition, Innovation cafe or speaking opportunities simply visit the links below

  • Register– Save via our Early Bird ticket sale
  • Speak– Submit a paper for one of our speaking opportunities
  • Sponsor– Secure your company a place in the Expo Hall & networking evening

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