LINDIWE MATLALI AFRICA TEEN GEEKS africateengeeks.co.za
‘In South Africa, only 5% of schools teach IT as a subject, generally only from grade 10 upwards. And, because of the costs involved, it is only taught in affluent schools, so township and rural kids may never have the opportunity to acquire these sought-after digital skills. Four years ago Lindiwe Matlali decided to roll up her sleeves and do something to right this injustice. ‘I founded Africa Teen Geeks to help close the computing education opportunity gap,’ she explains. Her NPO teaches children between the ages of six and 18 how to code. To this end Africa Teen Geeks partnered with UNISA to facilitate Saturday classes in UNISA computer labs nationwide. Here, the kids are introduced to the Java and Python programming languages, and those older than 16 are accredited with Junior Java certificates. ‘Our vision is to inspire the next generation of Africa’s tech innovators and entrepreneurs by equipping them with the skills and support they need to
Knowing that we give kids hope and raise their aspirations to dream big is my biggest achievement and driver.
succeed in the tech space,’ says Lindiwe.
Africa Teen Geeks has had a far-reaching impact. Over 40 000 children have been introduced to coding and robotics through their work and they have educated more than 1500 girls through their Girl Geek program.
Girl Geek came about after Lindiwe learned that only 23% of girls choose IT in school, leading to only 20% of women making up the IT workforce. ‘Our goal is to create a pipeline of girls who become women in tech. We also have a programme called Knit2Code, which I developed and have a provisional patent for; it’s aimed at teaching girls coding through knitting.’
Her work has not gone unnoticed. Africa Teen Geeks was a finalist in the UN Women & ITU Equals in Tech award in 2017, and Lindiwe won Community Builder of the year at the 2017 BBQ awards, was named one of Destiny magazine’s Powerful Women Under 40 and named one of Innov8tiv’s Top 50 Visionary Women in South Africa last year.
FAIRLADY is proud to award Lindiwe the Social Entrepreneur award for making a real difference in children’s lives through Africa Teen Geeks.
‘Nothing inspires me more than seeing a child who has never touched a computer before create their first app or game,’ says Lindiwe.