Fairlady - - AMAZING WOMEN -

‘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.

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