Let’s Play…and Learn

Wandile Mabanga grew up in Kwa Thema, a township located on the outskirts of Springs, Ekurhuleni in Gauteng. Wandile’s mother left school in Grade 11 and gave birth to him a few weeks before her 19th birthday. Wandile enrolled at Tlakula High School in 2003. An active member of the community, Wandile was also a member of the Youth Connection, a Kwa Thema-based non-profit organisation that focused on developing the underprivileged youth’s soft skills, thereby empowering them to reach their full potential.

Wandile is incredibly smart and he did exceptionally well in his studies. In his final year at high school, during a six-week teachers’ strike at his school, he took it upon himself to teach his fellow classmates Mathematics and Science – subjects at which he excelled. He emerged as one of the top five Matriculants in Gauteng, scoring an impressive 100% for Mathematics and 93% for Physical Sciences. Wandile’s love for science meant that during one school vacation period, he took a holiday job investigating hydrogen fuel cells as a potential green energy substitute for coal-based energy at Impala Platinum, 2008/9.

He eventually attended the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Wandile decided to study Chemistry with Chemical Engineering (a five year, two degree programme limited to only 30 students) as he liked Chemistry at High School and heard about Engineering, which he didn’t know much about.

Wandile is an Allan Gray fellow and has completed his M.Sc. in Theoretical Physics at Wits University. He is also a social entrepreneur and hopes to ultimately make a meaningful contribution to mankind.

Wandile is an avid gamer and a keen chess player. As such, he sought to develop games as a way to have young people engaged whilst also learning in the process. One of the games is currently in the prototyping phase and he has hopes that it will be purchased  and  have young people in classrooms all over the world engaged learning more about the African continent.

 Wandile is…

Wandile is a guy from Johannesburg who enjoys science, is friendly; likes people, nature and playing sports. And games.

How did the idea of developing a game come about?

I wanted to create a puzzle with irregular shapes. So I later came up with the idea of countries. No country is the same as the other. This is in fact the third game I have created, but only the second to go public. I have developed a game called Blitz years ago – the idea of the game being similar to Charades. The difference with the newest game is the fact that it is not culturally biased. Which is what I had aimed to do with this game.

Why games?

The idea to develop games has always been centered on people. I wanted to create something for the people that they could enjoy as well as learn from in the course of them playing it.

What was the inspiration behind this particular game?

I have always had an idea to develop this sort of game. The initial development started in January this year. I sought to create a puzzle game of the map of Africa – so I came up with a prototype. The prototype is still being tested and changes will still be made as I am looking to incorporate other elements.

What are the new developments you will be making to your prototype?

I would like for it to be available to schools, teaching students about the different African countries and to include flags of the different countries as well as quizzes about the countries. I think this will help pupils understand Africa better and this will bring people together whilst learning different cultures. I would also like for there to be championships later down the line – where this becomes competitive and involves people from all over the world.

What feedback have you received on the prototype?

To be honest, I am surprised at the amount of positive feedback I have received. I have had a few people playing the game, challenging each other to see who comes up with the best score and it has been tremendously engaging. I have also approached the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation who would like to use the game in some way (we are still exploring the options).

Let's Play…and Learn

I am excited for what is ahead and the reach that this game will eventually have. I am amazed at how people have responded to it thus far – and it’s not even complete yet.

Watch this video to learn more about Wandile and his love for the sciences. Wandile is a member of the Science faculty at African Leadership Academy.

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