Three students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) represented South Africa at the regional Cisco Certified Network Associate NetRiders competition, with one of them – Pieter Delport – coming third in the Africa region of this prestigious global networking skills competition.
While numerous students from across South Africa participate in the event, South Africa’s three representatives this year were all NMMU students – Delport (23), Wonga Vika (21) and Ryno Schoeman (21). The three flew from Port Elizabeth to the Johannesburg offices of Cisco, to pit their networking skills against those of the top networking students in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) competition.
NMMU networks lecturer Shaun Vincent, who accompanied them, said NMMU students have participated in NetRiders for the past four years, adding that the competition was a valuable tool for the students to deepen their skills and benchmark themselves against their global peers.
He noted that while South Africa may once have been seen as a natural leader in the networking space, students across Africa have caught up. “The competition is getting tougher as more countries across Africa improve their networking competencies.”
The annual Cisco NetRiders competition tests the skills of Cisco networking students from around the world in a challenge that progresses from country level, to a global level. Students compete individually, and three top scores per participating country move on to participate in the regional NetRiders competition.
The participants in the regional competition completed their networking challenges from venues across Europe, Middle East and Africa on 24 September, and the top achievers won a study trip to Cisco’s headquarters in the US.
Cisco’s regional manager for corporate affairs, Alfie Hamid, said 172 students in 57 countries participated in the EMEA leg of the competition this year, with Ugandan student Mark Ojangole of Makerere University College of Computing and Information Sciences winning first place in Africa and Stefan Nikolov of Bulgaria’s National High School of Mathematics and Science achieving the highest EMEA ranking.
The South African students were enthusiastic about the competition, saying it not only prompted them to deepen their knowledge, but also served to prove their networking abilities.
Delport, schooled in Pretoria and now studying in Port Elizabeth, aims to grow his skills and become a senior network engineer. He said: “We were honoured to represent South Africa and demonstrate our networking skills.”
Vika, who attended Benoni High School before moving to Port Elizabeth, adds that the trip to Cisco’s offices in Johannesburg was, in itself, an ‘eye opener’ for the students: “We saw technology we haven’t been exposed to back home,” he said. With his long-term plans entailing farming in the Eastern Cape, Wonga believes his networking skills may one day help him take innovative technologies into the farming arena.
PE-born Schoeman said the training the students received in the Cisco Networking Academy and NMMU’s broader curriculum prepared them well for the NetRiders competition. However, actually participating boosted their knowledge, and he believes that once they are in the workplace, their real learning will begin. “You only really start learning once you start working.”