Lucinda Coetzee is a mere eight years old and has only had a few coding lessons, but this go-getting mini geek from Belfast in Mpumalanga has already come up with her own Android app that informs users about road hazards and closures in real time.
“It’s called Road Help,” she explains chirpily over the phone, seemingly unperturbed about speaking in her second language, English. “Say you’re in traffic in Pretoria, it automatically tells you where there’s a roadblock and shows you another route to follow.”
Lucinda met Africa Teen Geeks founder Lindiwe Matlali through her mother, Cindy. She has only been enrolled in the programme for nine months, but is already raring to pursue a career in coding.
“I love to code,” she asserts. “I love to do programs, making games and apps. I would like to do it as a career, but right now it really helps me with my maths at school.
“My parents love it – they say they’ll give me a thousand dollars!” It’s not clear what she’s referring to, but her enthusiasm is infectious.
Her mum adds with an indulgent laugh that Lucinda “wants to do coding at home every day”.
Because most of the training currently takes place at Unisa venues in Gauteng, Lucinda has only been to a few coding classes, and took part in the Festival of Coding in October.
But from next year, Africa Teen Geeks will be expanding its computer science classes to smaller towns such as Belfast – and guess who will be first in the queue?
Another bright star is Olga Manyisa (16) of Roodepoort, who heard about the classes through the local welfare service about a year ago.
“Coding is tough,” she says, laughing, “but you learn from your mistakes. I’ve experienced a lot and have learnt new skills. It’s a great opportunity.
“I wanted to become a forensic detective, but now that I’ve discovered I like working with computers. I think I’ve changed my mind…”