Teach­ing girls com­puter code ig­nites fu­tures

Vuk'uzenzele - - Women's Month - Su­laiman Philip

A non-ProFIT com­puter sci­ence train­ing cen­tre is in­spir­ing Africa’s fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of tech­nol­ogy en­trepreneurs and in­no­va­tors to reach for the stars.

lindiwe Mat­lali doesn’t be­lieve that not hav­ing a com­puter should stop you from learn­ing how to use one. Or even how to code.

The founder of Africa Teen Geeks be­lieves if you have ac­cess to a com­puter, you can find free on­line tools that will teach you how to code. If you don’t, then you can use Mat­lali’s in­no­va­tive ap­proach to learn Python, a com­puter lan­guage.

“We have al­ready cre­ated a plat­form called Knit2Code, on which we teach young girls Python us­ing knit­ting. They learn to write a Python code for the South Africa flag and a scarf. This is what we call com­put­ing with­out a com­puter to re­move the bar­ri­ers for dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren who do not have ac­cess to a com­puter or the in­ter­net.”

Mat­lali be­lieves we need to mo­ti­vate chil­dren, es­pe­cially young girls, to see them­selves as cre­ators of tech­nol­ogy and not just con­sumers. “Our fo­cus is to raise their as­pi­ra­tions to not only be con­tent about know­ing how to use tech­nol­ogy, but to cre­ate it.”

African Teen Geeks bridges the gap be­tween un­der­stand­ing that tech­nol­ogy mat­ters and the lack of com­puter sci­ence ed­u­ca­tion in schools. Mat­lali teaches not just cod­ing but how to use tech­nol­ogy to make a dif­fer­ence. The Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, she says, is one way that South Africa can meet and beat the youth un­em­ploy­ment chal­lenge.

“If they are in­no­va­tive, they will not join the un­em­ploy­ment lines but will cre­ate em­ploy­ment for them­selves and their com­mu­ni­ties. We want to in­spire a gen­er­a­tion that doesn’t as­pire to be em­ployed but rather to be game chang­ers and trail­blaz­ers.”

Since 2014, African Teen Geeks has taught 38 000 chil­dren to code. Mat­lali’s NGO has also de­vel­oped a teacher train­ing pro­gramme that of­fers cour­ses and coach­ing for teach­ers who want to in­tro­duce a cod­ing cur­ricu­lum at their school.

The teacher train­ing cour­ses be­gan when Mat­lali no­ticed how many do­nated com­puter labs had turned into white ele­phants be­cause there were no qual­i­fied teach­ers. “Our cour­ses are de­signed to en­sure lessons are taught well, both in the­ory and prac­tice.”

Par­tic­i­pants in an African Teen Geeks hackathon.

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