The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Fanie Ndlovu, a Masters Student in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), is helping to achieve his digital goal through his VarsityGenie organisation.
Early this year Professor Sibusiso Moyo’s office, DVC: Research and Innovation (DVC: RIC), had granted R57 000 to the VarsityGenie DUT Chapter which was then called the DUT Innovation Club. He and his team are doing a sterling job of teaching and training DUT students and the Durban community around Microsoft 4IR tools.
Ndlovu, who is specialising in Artificial Intelligence, is a social entrepreneur, digital teacher and community builder who manages a community of more than 600 developers and has trained more than 2 000 diverse people, including women, high school learners, primary school learners with special needs, and deaf university students’ digital technologies.
He said that in the ever changing economy industries are frequently faced with immense pressure to adapt to change which requires a new set of digital skills and talents. “The University mandate is to offer those talents and skills to the industry. However, the challenge universities have are the mega size and complex policies and structures which makes the curriculum rigid. The rigid curriculum cannot deliver required skills to the industry,” he said.
Ndlovu further added that VarsityGenie saw that challenge as an opportunity. “Our aim since its establishment is to equip students with skills that will make them employable in the current economy. We have trained students in new technologies such as Cloud Computing and AI which are heavily adopted by industry. In addition, we have designed volunteering projects that gives students soft skills and work experience for their CV’s,” he stressed.
He said that current DUT students and Alumni (especially those who need to boost their CV so they can be employable), who are passionate to learn new things and make communities better, are encouraged to join the VarsityGenie DUT Chapter.
“The application to join is quarterly and the next open window will be in September 2020. Students are required to write a motivation letter and the most important element we are looking at is the ability to see problems around and coming up with solutions,” he said.
To indicate more on the type of projects that VarsityGenie embarks on, Ndlovu said there are three phases of projects.
He said that Project one entails his team together with GoDigitalSA and Ithala Bank working virtually (via WhatsApp, Facebook) and helping Grade 12 learners from the township and rural areas to select courses, apply online, inform them about NSFAS and how to apply for it. “COVID-19 has made it difficult for NGO’s or universities to conduct face-to-face career guidance for Grade 12s,” he added.
Ndlovu indicated that Project two consisted of designing E-learning platforms with Enactus that teach township and rural area communities to plant and sell their own vegetables.
“Project three is assisting on opening Garage Innovation Hubs in townships. Currently we have assisted to open two Garage Innovation Hubs. One is called Lamontiville Innovation Hub based in KwaZulu-Natal and the other called Kgabsy Phuthaditjhaba Innovation Hub in the Free State. VarsityGenie has already conducted classes around Artificial Intelligence and software development with the hubs. These hubs will be critical in helping students to volunteer by passing knowledge acquired at university and empower their communities while in the process gaining work experience,” explains Ndlovu.
Furthermore, he added that as most of students are from township and rural areas, he and his team use blackboard, the VarsityGenie Facebook Page and Instagram to advertise who they are and for students to apply. Ndlovu said that the aim of the organisation is by the next five-years to be the number one platform in Africa that make students employable.
“VarsityGenie Chapters will be existing in 1225 African universities. All working towards VarsityGenie’s mission which is enabling organisations and individuals to better world communities,” he said.
To find out more on VarsityGenie, go to : www.varsitygenie.co.za
Ndlovu works closely with the high-tech giants, Google and Microsoft, that define technologies and influence design methodologies that almost everyone uses, giving him an edge to deliver a competitive advantage knowledge to the audience or participants that enable them to prosper in the digital space.
In addition, Ndlovu is a Director Startup Grind company based in the USA that educates two million entrepreneurs across more than 125 countries. His work has won him multi-awards and took him internationally. In 2018, DUT honoured him with community service and leadership awards. In September 2018 he was invited by Google to speak in Sub-Saharan Africa GDG Summit in Kenya.
Also, in November 2018, DUT sent him as delegate to participant in the emerging leaders Peace Summit in United Nations, in Thailand. In March 2020, based on his amazing work, Microsoft had selected Ndlovu to attend the Microsoft Imagine Cup Final Summit in Netherlands.
Pictured (fanie1): Fanie Nocholas Ndlovu