“SCRATCH”-ing the Code World

Brenda Wangwe-Kilonzo writes for YTF Kenya and is based in Nairobi. She wrote this based on her experience at Africa Code Week at Nairobi’s Winka Academy.

The energy is infectious. I am not very sure there are many better ways of unwinding than sitting in the midst of excited 10 year olds. It’s all hands raised, fingers snapping and near-desperate calls on the tutor – everyone seems to have that special answer he is looking for.

 “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

G.K. Chesterton

I’m at Youth for Technology Foundation’s (YTF) Africa Code Week at Nairobi’s Winka Academy; teaching ages 9-11 to code using a software package called Scratch.

“This is an entry point to the more advanced coding,” said Wanyumu Ibuka, YTF’s program coordinator. “It comes with pre-set icons which can help children program their own interactive stories, animations, and games.”

Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively – essential skills for life in the 21st century.

“With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability,” said Fred Swaniker, founder and CEO of African Leadership Academy. A view that YTF concurs with.

Daniel code ytf scratch

This is even an issue U.S. President Obama has weighed on. In 2015 at the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia, Obama explained: “Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.  Africa’s middle class is projected to grow to more than one billion consumers. With hundreds of millions of mobile phones and surging access to the Internet, Africans are beginning to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity,” US President Barack Obama has said.

So YTF is reaching out to empower Kenya’s youth population to help narrow social and economic disparities through one simple concept: access to information. The information we expose youth to creates economic opportunities and the ability to compete globally.

Back to the refreshing moments at Winka Academy’s Africa Code Week. Like many successful teachers, we want to hear out our students. “Who goes first?” I ask. Daniel shoots up his hand.

Daniel YTF youth code scratch

Daniel is keen on being part of Kenya’s technological future tapestry. The 10 year old second-last born of five siblings says when he is not outside playing soccer with his friends or doing his chores at home, he is usually on the on the computer. “I use my older sister’s computer to play action games, and to talk with my friends over Skype and Whatsapp – just finding out how they are or checking whether they have finished their homework.”

He loves machines and would like to be an engineer when he grows up. Daniel says he has enjoyed the Scratch week and hopes the coding he has just started with YTF would enable him achieve his passion – using the computer to make educative games for children. “I want them not to get HIV and to know have to make good use of the soil,” he asserts.

Eighteenth century writer Alfred Mercier said: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”YTF takes this to heart, aiming for plenty of fun at Africa Code Weeks to help launch the next Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Dell – right here in Kenya.

 

October 2016: Celebrating Mary and All our Teachers on World Teachers’ Day

Mary

Mary teaches students at one of YTF’s training hubs in Nairobi, Wezesha Digital Village

This Busy Student and YTF Master Trainer Is an Inspiration On World Teachers’ Day

Most days, Mary Munyoki is an ambitious student in Kenya, on the path to become an electrical engineer. Mary is also a Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) Master Trainer, passing on her love for engineering and passion for youth to secondary school age students that participate in YTF Academy in Kenya.

A final year student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture And Technology, Mary’s education and work experience have afforded her critical training and even real-world experience. A project to design a new water level sensor even exposed her to knowledge of 3D printing, since she had to come up with the casing for the sensor’s gadget. This comes in handy for her work with YTF.

Mary teaches program participants basic technology skills, hardware programming using Arduino and Raspberry Pi and programming languages, like C. She is a mentor to many of the students, especially girls, helping them relate what they learn in school to real world problems how technology can be part of the solution. Mary recalls one of her students, Irene. “She always comes with an open mind, is very active in class and always willing to learn. She and many others, inspire me”.

With only 6% of women engineers in Kenya, Mary knows there is a lot still to be done. “We are proud to partner with and introduce our students to women in technology in companies like Safaricom and MasterCard. The more we can expose girls to women in technology the better, she said. “They need to see women in these roles so they understand their goals to pursue science or technology careers are attainable”.

Engineering has always been a passion for Mary. She always had an admiration for airplanes and was interested in studying aeronautical engineering. During high school, she shadowed one of the engineers who worked for Wilson Airport. Though he was pleased with her interest and choice of career, he advised that since the aviation field was not fully developed in Kenya, pursuing Electrical and Electronics Engineering may be a better option.
Mary is the third born of four children, many of whom pursued science related careers. Her older sister is a nurse, her older brother is studying Medicine and her younger brother is still in high school. Her father worked for the Government of Kenya where he retired as the Deputy Director of Agriculture and her mother is a veterinary doctor. Mary attributes the influence of her parents, siblings and mentors as being instrumental in shaping her choice to study engineering.

In celebration of World Teachers Day, YTF is grateful for Mary’s contributions to our work in Kenya. We applaud her commitment and the inspiration she is to many of the girls and students she works with at YTF.

Pledging for Parity for women like Bilambo and Kanini

International Women’s Day is celebrated in several countries to mark the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. On this day, as women, we remember the struggles that we face and honor the accomplishments we have made.

Shalom participates in YTF’s Wezesha Digital Village and is 16 years old.  Today, she is celebrating her mother’s efforts to help her and her siblings achieve their goals as she struggles to achieve hers in a balancing act that only takes courage and brevity.

Shalom’s favorite subject is Chemistry.  She likes to invent and make things.

Shalom’s favorite subject is Chemistry. She likes to invent and make things.

 

Bilambo

Shalom’s mother, Bilambo, lost her husband a few years ago leaving her to raise three children.  She has relentlessly done this to ensure decent food, clothing and a roof over their heads. Bilambo is originally from Congo, a war stricken country.  This hard working woman, who had many odds working against her, could not land a white collar job or employment because she was not formally educated in the school system.   She decided to go into business for herself, selling a African fabric and later added jewelry in her stock to increase profits. She has done this for years though her efforts have not gone without struggle. Being the sole provider, she has witnessed as her children have gone on to high school and even university in cases where children have dropped out of school.  

Shalom and her siblings are very lucky and happy children.  They are emotionally, physically and socially healthy. The journey may be hard but the fruits surpass the efforts. A woman will never give up; she will work all the way to build for her children.

Kanini

Kanini is a business owner. She owns a general store that specializes in household items. Her journey is an inspiration. She gained strength from a bad situation; a man who abandoned her when he learnt of her pregnancy leaving to fend for herself and the baby.  Then she had been helping a family for over 8 years earning a monthly salary of Shs. 10,000 only.

 

Pictured here is Kanini in front of her shop she opened in 2007 and where she sells household consumables and snacks.

Pictured here is Kanini in front of her shop she opened in 2007 and where she sells household consumables and snacks.

 

She bought some little stock and paid her rent in a little slum area in Kenya with funds she borrowed from her family. That is how her journey to independence and prosperity began. Now she has increased her sizable stock to more than Shs.100, 000. Her son is now in school and she rents a home.   She plans to develop her small business into a supermarket.  She reckoned that her son keeps her going.  “Women deserve to be given equal opportunities to be able to show case our abilities because we are strong and able”, she said.


 

Laura Wambui  is a project coordinator, Gender and ICTs at YTF’s Wezesha Digital Village in Kenya.  She is inspired by working with young people who want to own their life and use technology for good.  You can follow Laura on twitter @laurawambuik

Creating a New Future: Innovation and Hope from President Obama

 

You can’t stop the future, you can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret…Is to press play. (Jay Asher)

Kenyans recently hosted U.S. President Obama at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, cultivating a culture and conversation around entrepreneurship that the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) is proud to support. Despite questions of a safe and secure visit, Obama made the journey that will forever remain a beacon of hope for the Kenyan people and Africa at large.

Initiated in 2009, the summit aims to connect upcoming entrepreneurs with established global business leaders. Kenya was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to host the sixth global event. This historic event made waves and left Africans hoping again.

Opening Pathways to Alternative Employment

There has been a lot of hope in Kenyan youth as they look for innovative ways to make a living through entrepreneurship. In particular, you seek employment where they apply ICT and agricultural skills to make a living and bring a positive change to the society. This new opportunity with unique careers comes from a growing productive population with relevant skills, education, and hard working initiative who cannot enter the existing job market because of harsh economic conditions in the country.

With this context, Obama’s visit to Kenya was timely and very welcome. Especially considering the aim of this summit is to create trade markets between countries and the United States of America.

The YTF community takes this opportunity seriously. “We as leaders need to mobilize workshops and seminars to help youth gain knowledge of their potential and show them the skills they need to succeed,” said Joseph Kamau, a YTF staff member in Kenya. “It’s now up to us to step up to the challenge, to help youth tap into their futures. A challenge we must take with gladness. I’m up to that challenge, are you?”

10 year old participant in YTF’s 3D Africa – Kenya – states, “Innovation is the art of introducing something new, like things that can be created out of 3D Printing

Words of Hope from a Trusted Source

President Obama’s words were filled with hope and faith. He said that Africa’s potential can be fulfilled by harnessing the power of its young people to transform the continent. He told entrepreneurs at the summit that Africa’s time had come as a place of innovation with young people, especially women, poised to transform the continent. He reiterated that Africa is on the move.

“This continent needs to be a future hub of global growth and Kenya is setting an important example – Kenya is leading the way,” Obama said. Coming from one who has African roots and has extraordinarily risen to great power, his speech that much more believable to millions in Kenya and Africa. Hearing President Obama, we believe that we too can make it and that the future is filled with hope that does not disappoint.

Kenya is on the move with a vibrant culture, with a thriving tech sector in particular, having produced world-leading mobile money and crowd sourcing applications, among other forward-thinking advances. Hope is definitely in the air, with our entrepreneurship spirit empowering change in Africa and globally in the future.

”Africa is the world’s newest and most promising frontier of limitless opportunities. We are at the beginning of a great journey.” -President Uhuru Kenyatta.

 

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Laura Wambui is writing from YTF in Kenya where she is a Project Coordinator for 3D Africa. In this role she works with youth to inspire innovation and an interest in STEM careers and education using open source technologies and 3D Printing. Laura is passionate about working with girls, particularly, in Kenya and exposing them to technologies that can educate them and change their lives.

Kibera: Youth + Technology = Hope

Given the new age trend on Africa where the society as a whole has leaned on technology as it’s way forward for development, education, communication and business opportunities, YTF has also seen a niche opportunity to reach out to this otherwise disenfranchised community; albeit a maiden venture. However, there are sufficient reasons and information to support this agenda. Primarily all of this is based on meeting an ever growing need to empower the youth on the ground, who are by far the majority taking up more than 60-70% of the total population in Kenya.

As they say in real estate, and good business; to spearhead an effective venture it’s “Location, Location, Location”. Needless to emphasize further, YTF has Identified Kibera as a suitable pilot area in which to role out its first major campaign. Here are some supporting statistics, to give you a clearer picture of this area.

Statistical Information on Kibera

There are approx 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the Nairobi population, occupying just 6% of the land. Kibera houses almost 1 Million of these people. Kibera is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world.

Land Ownership

The Government owns all the land. 10% of people are shack owners and many of these people own many other shacks and sub-let them. All the rest are tenants with no rights.

Housing

The average size of shack in this area is 12ft x 12ft built with mud walls, screened with concrete, a corrugated tin roof, dirt or concrete floor. The cost is about Ksh 700 per Month ($10). These shacks often house up to 8 or more, many sleeping on the floor.

The population

All the people are African. The original settlers were the Nubian people from the Kenyan/Sudanese border – they now occupy about 15% of Kibera, are mostly Muslim and are also mostly shack owners. The other shack owners are mostly Kikuyu (the majority tribe in Kenya) – although in most cases they do not live there but are absentee landlords. The majority of the tenants are Luo, Luhya and some Kamba – these people are from the west of Kenya. There are many tensions in Kibera, particularly tribal tensions between the Luo & Kikuyu, but also between landlord and tenant and those with and without jobs.

Electricity

Only about 20% of Kibera has electricity. UN-Habitat is in the process of providing it to some parts of Kibera – this will include street lighting, security lighting and connection to shacks (this costs Ksh 900 per shack, which in most cases is not affordable).

There is rampant abuse of cheap locally brewed alcohol, drugs, prostitution among the youth, both boys and girls, and subsequently, as expected, HIV/AIDS is also rampant and ever growing in this area. Politicians also abuse the youth during elections and pay them petty pocket money to cause violence and support them and disrupt their opponent’s rallies and campaigns.

So where does YTF fit in to all of this?

By setting up a Youth Communication Center, we could easily be use simple and inexpensive technology like the new Rasberry Pi, and open source software. Imagine having a computer CPU the size of an external hard-disk that can fit in your shirt pocket. This is just connected to a screen, a keyboard and mouse, and you have a fully working computer. This could greatly help in cutting costs, especially start-up costs.

The Kibera youth could then begin to experience what they otherwise see on TV, or in the papers, live and it could begin to become a part and parcel of their lives. Following the emergence of mobile technology wherein more than 60% of all Kenyans now have a mobile phone or access to one, and more so, smart-phones which are internet enabled from the get-go, people have now become more enticed with social media, and can get instant access to information through their phones. It’s primarily along the same channels that we could target our campaign. Rather than reinvent the wheel, so to speak, we just use the same mobile platform, and digital training materials, which by the way is one of our governments main development agendas, and  use enticing photos, videos, and interesting things that they can relate to, and woo them into a new digital information age.

Many of them being completely new to computers, we would need an interesting way of doing a general introduction to computers using a lot of visual aids, and screenshots, using an overhead projector and we could similarly print out large posters like A2 size that we could paste up in the center and create smaller handout versions for the youth to carry home and read and remember the things they saw. The materials would be 80% visual with a line or two illustrating what the screenshot represents. We could then begin to identify those that are learning fastest and thoroughly train them and use them as sub trainers of their various groups.

The moral of the story is replacing the disenfranchisement with information, guidance and training that helps them fend for themselves with their minds, rather than having to get into moral decay for a living.

 

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Joe Kamau Macharia is YTF’s Country Lead based in Kenya.  He writes from Nairobi where he is responsible for building partnerships with the public, private sector and civil society. Joe is using his passion for youth and technology to help young people achieve their personal goals and become leaders in their communities.

Youth, PeaceOpoly and Kenya

Earlier this month, YTF Kenya hosted Dr. Lee Rother, an award-winning teacher, author, consultant and a member of the YTF Board.   It was wonderful hearing first hand from Dr. Rother his thoughts on our work in Kenya so far.  I spent the first two hours of our meeting bringing him up to speed with where the local team was in the development and launch of PeaceOpoly.  I shared the history of how youth in YTF’s Yes, Youth Can! program in Nigeria birth the idea for a  ‘game for change’ to complement the civic education workshops, the history of PeaceOpoly, creating the storyboard, working with MobileFutures- the development team, engaging Kenyan and Nigerian youth to test the game and announcing its release to the world.  Dr. Rother acknowledged the work thus far emphasizing the importance to build relationships local schools, universities and educators in an effort to incorporate PeaceOpoly as a learning resource in the educational curriculum.

Dr. Rother and I took this opportunity to visit with educators and several schools that potentially would be interested in integrating PeaceOpoly into their curriculum.  In addition to PeaceOpoly,  YTF will implement YTF Academy programs working in partnership with grassroots organizations and schools.

We visited with three schools; Kirigiti Girls Rehabilitation School, African Evangelistic Enterprise and Kibera Girls Soccer Academy.

We first drove about 40 minutes away from Nairobi to Kirigiti Girls Rehabilitation School, a school that is home to girls who consider it more of a refuge, a safe-haven.

Mr. Stephen O., a teacher met with us and provided the history of the school, the challenges and successes.  The school serves girls under 18 years of age who are at-risk: many have undergone female genital mutilation, physical violence and are from very hostile backgrounds.  Several of these girls come from parents with broken and violent marriages or have been sentenced for a variety of crimes and are admitted to the school through court orders.  The school works hard to help the girls turn their lives around and for hundreds of these girls, they dread the day when they would have to return to their biological homes.  In addition to some academic study, the basics of literacy and numeracy, there is some vocational training provided including lessons in dressmaking hairdressing, baking and beauty therapy.

Hairdressing2

There is a ‘computer lab’ at Kirigiti and it has only 1 laptop computer.  Computer lessons are taught to over 200 girls, none of whom really have the practical knowledge of how to use computers when they graduate. When the girls graduate, they are given government-sponsored grants to purchase equipment and establish a micro-business.

kirigithi1

The following day, we drove 30 kilometers from town, to Karen, the town that hosts a fantastic faith-based organization, Africa Evangelistic Enterprise (AAE).  Located on more than 10 acres of land, AAE works with local churches to empower Kenyan youth. We met with Edward N., a very hospitable team leader who shared, with passion AAE’s work in Kenya.  It was interesting to learn the impact AAE is making in as many as 10,000 students a year across 10 different schools, participate in a guidance and counselling program that is offered through these schools.  AAE’s curriculum teaches youth better time management, how to handle peer pressure, and topics related to health, faith and career development.  The team at AAE was very open to continuing to discuss options to integrate our civics education curriculum.  Edward emphasized the role of youth in Kenya’s leadership ending on the note that youth are a powerful and unstoppable force that if well trained and nurtured, could be a new revolution in our society, and can bridge the much needed leadership vacuum that is lacking among the national leaders.

Later that afternoon, we were joined by YTF partners from Stade Sports, another local NGO in Nairobi.  We drove 20 kilometers away from Nairobi into Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa, to visit with Kibera Girls Soccer Academy.  As the school was impossible to reach by road, we parked about 30 minutes away and walked through what seemed like an endless maze of shanties, homes made from rusty iron sheets and mud houses.

kibera8

Sanitation and security are major problems in Kibera and as we walked through the narrow roads lined with garbage, I wondered what we possibly could find amidst all this extreme poverty. And there it was… Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, KGSA.

kibera5-pic

KGSA is a community-based organization that provides free education, art programming and athletic opportunities to about 120 girls a year.  KGSA believes that through active participation in education, the arts, and athletics, the girls will have the opportunity to develop a stronger confidence in their minds, bodies, and spirits – empowering them to become leaders in their own communities and country, as they advocate for a brighter Kibera and Kenya.  We introduced PeaceOpoly to the KGSA team and they were very excited about the potential the learning resource could have in their programming.  In addition to academics, the girls at KGSA learn video production and photography. Listening to one of the girls talk about using video programming software, final cut, made the difficulty in getting to the school well worth it.

kibera-pic2

Joe Kamau Macharia is YTF’s Country Lead based in Kenya.  He writes from Nairobi where he is responsible for building partnerships with the public, private sector and civil society. Joe is using his passion for youth and technology to help young people achieve their personal goals and become leaders in their communities.