Johannesburg — SOUTH African youth from disadvantaged communities, particularly female learners, are the major beneficiaries of an initiative by a technology company to ensure youngsters thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.
The establishment of the Khulisa Academy by the Dell Development Foundation in 2015 followed the realisation the ongoing revolution ushered in a world where computers are ubiquitous and human/machine interactions will accelerate development in ways never imagined before.
Khulisa is a Zulu word for nurturing.
"When designing the academy it was important that it wasn't just another training academy," said Natasha Reuben, Head of Transformation at Dell EMC South Africa.
Whereas many such initiatives focus on basic technology literacy, the Khulisa Academy goes further by promoting high-performance computer (HPC) skills.
"We learn a lot about information technology (IT), specifically high-performance computing and a lot of subtopics within that field as a whole. It's a whole lot of things in one package," enthused Faustina Thobakgale, a first year HPC student at Khulisa.
Each year, 30 students are chosen from across South Africa, with applications received through different initiatives, including existing relationships with schools, followed by a lengthy vetting of the applications received where the top 10 percent are selected to enter the academy.
This is the start of a two-year course. In the beginning, a lot of focus is placed on developmental aspects. Khulisa staff engage with each student to determine their goals and fundamentals before moving into the technical components.
Khulisa, with the backing of the Dell Development Fund, provides the course content and accommodation as well as various other needs.
"It's completely funded by Dell and all the students earn a market-related salary. That's important. You're not coming in and earning a stipend. The market-related salary allows them to go into their first job at an advantage," Reuben said.
All graduating students are helped into employment through Dell, its partners or customers.
Last year's class all completed successfully with a pass rate of above 80 percent. All were placed as well and two formed businesses that Dell is supporting.
Siyanda Zokoza is one of the Khulisa alum. He is the founder of I STAY @, an app service that helps students find university accommodation.
"Khulisa looks for people who are innovative game-changers, people who will change South Africa and create employment," Zokoza said.