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Regina Kgatle is changing our education system one game at a time

Regina Kgatle is an electronics enthusiast, game developer and entrepreneur who is making a positive impact on the lives of young children across the country. In a time when South Africa’s educational system leaves much to be desired, Regina is using her IT skills and creating games for pupils that supplement the current school syllabus. 
Her main project, 67games is founded on the belief that well-crafted games and enjoyable media experiences can add immense value to the overall education of young people. What started out as Educade, a project transforming old arcade-style machines into learning tools, has now grown into an initiative bringing together game enthusiasts who want to spread educational content through the medium. 
67games also hosts a number of long-form game jams to foster mentorship and knowledge exchange around the literacy of science, technology, art, engineering and mathematics. Regina’s philosophy is that the skills used during game play further develop a child’s education both through the content and the cognitive skills applied when playing the games. 

Inspired by Clinique’s current Difference Makers campaign that profiles six amazing women, we spoke with Regina to learn more about her much-needed initiative.

Regina Kgatle
You studied electrical and computer engineering at UCT. Was this something you always wanted to pursue and if so, what inspired this decision? 

Yes, it has been something I wanted to pursue. I have been an active participant of Eskom Science Expo for Young Scientists since I was in grade 3. I then followed up by taking Information Technology in Grade 10. Instructing machines is something I have been doing since then and I have always found it interesting.
67Games was born out of Educade. Can you tell us how the whole initiative started, and how it’s developed since then? 

It was inspired by my upbringing. My parents owned an arcade centre. It was something that a lot of children enjoyed, we had many complaints from parents who felt like all their children do is play, and they felt that that time could be spent on school work. Being on the ground and seeing how children loved the arcades, I took it upon myself to build arcades that both children and parents would love. Arcade games that allow children to learn through play.

67games was a Not-For-Profit sister of Educade, to call upon the game developers community to help me advance the cause of teaching through play. It was birthed from the understanding that open collaboration can allow Educade to advance at a speedy rate, thus impacting many children who otherwise would not have any complementary learning tools.

You re-purpose old arcade games and turn them into educational learning tools. What does this process entail?

It is a process known as edutainment that is grounded in the understanding that people – especially young ones –learn through play. At Educade, I look at the primary school curriculum employed by The Department of Education, and seek to design games that  contain the curriculum content. I also seek to complement the employed curriculum. We have games that teach children about consent, sexuality, gangsterism and more. This content is usually minimal if covered at all at schools.
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Starting something new can be challenging. What has surprised you most about the process so far? 

That you can never know enough. Each day presents its challenges together with its lessons. 
Are there any myths when it comes to ideas around education and gaming that you think need to be addressed? 

Mostly, the misconceptions are founded in the fundamental understanding of how people learn. I seek to inspire learning. If you’re playing for instance a history game, people often think you’ll get all the teaching within the game. This is highly impossible, but what we rather seek to do, is spark interest that leads to our users to search for more. 
In you opinion, what do you think the main challenges are when it comes to education in South Africa and how can they be overcome? 

Lack of consultation and imagination. The content itself lacks practical application in the daily lives of many South Africans. We also see the lack of imagination in our curriculums. Formal education in many forms does not speak to the daily lived experiences of many South Africans. I know I’m being a little abstract in my elaboration, but this is something that deserves its own essay. Overall, I feel like we can do better in preserving African knowledge and principles. We can do better to address the ills in our society, like xenophobia, albinism, etc. We can do way better in Science and Engineering if we are fueled by the desire to solve problems that are unique in nature to our communities and societies.
Recently, you tweeted about having free decolonised education. How do you think 67Games contributes to this? 

I don’t think I do this enough, but I try. We have built games that are centred around many lived experiences of South African children. In our games you will find characters like black girls with their natural hair, you will pass the beauties of South Africa like Table Mountain, you will ride cars in the village, pass across cows and stuff like that. Representation is important, thus we make sure that our graphics and art speak to it.

We also tackle problems on the ground. Rodain together with an NPO called 18 gangsterism, were part of the last submission of 67games where they made a game specifically to address gangster culture in Cape Town.Through their game, they spread awareness of how many children get recruited into gangs.

Regina Kgatle
Since starting the initiative, you’ve travelled extensively to various conferences and tech events. What are some key things you’ve taken away from those experiences and implemented back home? 

Open collaboration is in many ways better.
As much as you’re making a difference, you also encourage others to do the same. What are the different ways someone can get involved in helping 67Games and Educade? 

At 67games, we partner different people in the arts to come together and build a game that addresses problems identified by teachers and NPOs dealing with children. If you go to our website, you can submit your details to co-work with others. We have yearly game jams (hackathons for game developers) where we spend a weekend making games. We also go to schools, children hospitals and community centres to get children learning through our games. I’d recommend people to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated.
In 10 years time, what do you hope to achieve? 

My interest lies in informing in ways that people find interesting. There’s a saying that goes, “If they can’t learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn”.
Pledge a donation, make a game or sign up to be a volunteer for 67Games here.  
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