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Coding all the way from Cape Town to Casablanca

Manuel Göpelt | Dec. 2, 2015
Africa Code Week aims to teach programming to young people in 30 countries.

Buses helped extend the reach of Africa Code Week in October, 2015. 
Africa Code Week organizers used buses to bring the progamming education event to children in remote area. Credit: Computerwoche

This involved converting standard buses into mobile computer labs. Together with NPO Ampion and Cape Town Science Center, SAP technicians fitted buses out with simple, easy-to-handle equipment and removed the front rows of seats to make space for a trainer and a large screen. Each double seat was fitted with a table and a laptop, making a total of 30 computer desktops with space for two children at each. Power for the equipment comes from the bus itself, which generates enough electricity for one workshop during half a day's journey.

"This meant that we were able to visit two communities every day," says Mr. Morrissey, who accompanied a bus in the Western Cape region of South Africa at the beginning of October. And although the number of knowledge-hungry youngsters exceeded expectations at almost every destination, no one went home disappointed. Wherever necessary, the trainers placed the children three to a desk or worked in a shift system. This made it all the more important to identify the degree of support that each child needed. "Learning speeds differed quite significantly within groups," says Mr. Morrissey, adding, "That teaches you, as a trainer, a great deal about the extent to which your own ability to empathize and improvise affects the success of a workshop."

Further expansion

With the inaugural phase of Africa Code Week behind them, the organizers are currently assessing the relative impact of the stationary, mobile, and web-based offerings so that they can direct their resources at the measures with the greatest potential for development. It is already clear that future activities will focus largely on training local trainers and on expanding the current online offering.

At the same time, the number of educational institutions, NGOs, and IT companies joining the initiative is growing. Recent additions to the list include Atos and Google, and Africa Code Week is calling on other enterprises and organizations to lend their support and give young Africans the digital expertise they need to carve out a career in their home countries. "IT skills are the job currency of the future," says Alicia Lenze, Head of Global Corporate Social Responsibility, Global Corporate Affairs at SAP SE. "Africa Code Week is a powerful way to spread digital literacy across the African continent and to build the skilled, homegrown workforce needed for Africa’s emerging IT sector."

(Manuel Göpelt is a freelance journalist in Cologne, Germany.)

Africa Code Week in a nutshell:

Africa Code Week, which ran for the first time in October 2015, offers children and young people an opportunity to learn coding skills. The pan-African initiative trains trainers and provides them with free teaching materials for three different age groups. Workshops for the 8-11 and 12-17 age groups focus on the Scratch coding language developed by MIT Media Lab. For the 18-24 age group, there are courses in the HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Meteor Web technologies. Free online courses are available in English and French for teachers and teenagers to continue using after the October workshops. Africa Code Week was devised by SAP in association with social enterprise, IT startup service provider AMPION, Galway Education Centre, Cape Town Science Centre, and King Baudouin Foundation. Government agencies and educational establishments in the following 17 countries have already signed up to the initiative: Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, and Uganda.


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