Qiniso – Adversity Breeds Innovation

Zoom, Teams, Hangouts … Covid-19 has permanently reshaped our economy and has changed the standard operating processes of many industries in South Africa and globally. We had to quickly adapt to a new working world that saw a rapid decline in tourism, aviation and maritime, but major opportunities created for e-commerce, ICT and social services.

The young professionals from Qiniso were ready for the shifts in the economy ushered in by Covid-19, and are finding their products more in demand now than before.

Young trades professionals

‘I had no electricity, growing up’, says 28-year-old Kgaladi Tsima in her calm, collected tone. ‘We used paraffin and coal stoves to cook with and candles for lighting. I saw many of our neighbours illegally distributing electricity to their rural dwellings. They would use incorrect wiring methods, exposed on the ground, and of course this led to the deaths of many of my childhood friends. I vowed early on that I would put an end to this.’

Kgaladi decided to study electrical engineering, having to uproot from gaMasemola Thabampshe village in Limpopo and move to the informal settlement of Gabon, outside Daveyton in Gauteng in order to study at Ekurhuleni East College. Working part time as a general worker and cleaner, Kgaladi completed the stringent Red Seal Trade Test, becoming one of few qualified female electricians in South Africa.

The FOSH Qiniso team also includes 28-year old Allan Munyai, 27-year old Lethabo Seerane and 30-year old Abigail Kanyane, all of whom tell similar stories of hardship and exposure to dangerous electrical connections and transformers in their childhoods.

While reviewing digital content for an interactive, virtual, audio visual lesson on engineering drawings, Lethabo Seerane comments on how difficult it is to pass the Red Seal Electrical Trade Test.

‘This is why my job here at Qiniso is so rewarding. At high school, I was in the stream for commerce subjects, simply because my school made that decision for me. Despite their streaming, I still enrolled for Electrical Infrastructure and Construction at the Ekurhuleni West College. After three years of study, I needed to complete my apprenticeship, but my male supervisor simply didn’t trust that a woman electrician could work successfully with complex wiring. So I was never adequately prepared and mentored to pass the Red Seal Trade Test.

‘I now work towards changing the learning and apprenticeship experience for future students – which is why my daily work at FOSH Qiniso is so rewarding.’  

Digital learning content

‘At Qiniso, we develop virtual reality, audio visual, digital learning content,’ says Allan Munyai. ‘At the moment, we build learning content for various trades that can be used by students at FET colleges for different trades like carpentry and plumbing. Our learning material is digital, interactive but still very user-friendly.

‘I am from eKasi, but I was never exposed to any computers or online learning content until I reached tertiary. So I understand the importance of making our learning material easily accessible to tertiary students from townships and rural communities,’ says Munyai. ‘Of course, coupled with that, there is the negative perception that careers in the trades involve unskilled work. Often, our communities do not realise that only qualified plumbers or qualified bricklayers are suitable to do construction and maintenance work at homes and industrial or commercial sites. Our work is extremely skilled.’

Qiniso Innovators

Abigail Kanyane is the team content developer and innovator for the electrical trade. ‘Preparing for the Red Seal Trade Test meant spending sleepless nights reading a textbook which, in my opinion, was not even considered when the Red Seal exam was compiled.

‘But I saw how the Red Seal exam improved with the introduction of plug-in panels by Qiniso, rather than the outdated hard wiring that students were previously forced to do during the Red Seal exam. When I saw this new introduction by Qiniso, I knew that many more changes could be made to improve the learning environment for students in the trades at FET colleges.

‘That’s why I jumped when a job vacancy opened at Qiniso as a result of the German development agency, GIZ, providing funding for the development and employment of eight young people to work at Qiniso, through the Qiniso Hub. I am now part of a team of eight young professionals. We combine our training in the trades with virtual reality technology to create interesting, challenging and forward-looking learning material. We know what students struggle with, so we’re ideally positioned to create relevant learning content.

‘Qiniso is the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the education sector. Since the start of Covid-19, our digital, virtual reality, audio visual learning products are more in demand than ever, as people realise the huge benefits and cost-savings of online learning.’   

Simphiwe Mtetwa
Simphiwe Mtetwa is South Africa’s leading Corporate Social Responsibility news, media and publishing firm. We create content on social responsibility, helping government, corporates, consultants, NPOs and NGOs to reach their target markets through appropriate, targeted development news.

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