Cracking the Code: Helping Youth in Africa Compete in the 21st Century

Africa Code Week trainer

Nnamdi shares a high five with students at a YTF partner school in Lagos, Nigeria.

Post by Nnamdi Iheme, YTF Master Trainer in Nigeria

Youth for Technology (YTF) is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Africa Code Week, an initiative spearheaded by SAP as part of its social investment in Africa. We are focused on cultivating paths to a successful future for youth across Africa and investing in our own people to help train thousands of future coders. This effort is all about encouraging and helping African youth to say their first “Hello world!” in coding and give them the ability to help build a future for themselves and their world.

Africa Code Week is an annual event usually held during the second week of October. The week involves hands-on workshops where kids and young adults are introduced to coding and encouraged to pursue a future in information technology. This helps to close the widening digital skills gap and empower Africans to build sustainable growth by creating enough qualified IT talent.

Can We Really Teach Kids to Code?

Africa Code Week trainer showing coding

Coding is simply giving instructions to a computer to execute. Just like we give instructions to fellow team members using human languages, we can also give instructions to computers using computer languages. The ability to know and structure these special computer instruction languages is what we call coding.

According to Africa Code Week organizers, coding is the literacy of the digital age: a whole new language for children to speak fluently and express themselves in the 21st century. Many different programing languages (which include more of the logic behind the coding) were built to serve a variety of platforms, but their creation all has a common thread: creative and analytical thinking. It’s clear that programming will only make our younger generation better problem solvers, touching all areas of their life.

We’re so passionate about teaching kids to code that we integrate coding into our core technology programming in YTF Academy. We teach coding all year because we know this can be a critical skill to help youth find success by completing their education and staying in a good job. This is why, in our spirit of “delivering to the community” at YTF, it was a no-brainer to embrace the Africa Code Week movement and make a quick jump onto this platform of change and hope.

Investing in Our People and the Youth We Serve

Africa Code Week train the trainer event

YTF Master Trainers provide training to teachers in Ondo state during the ACW Train-the-Trainer sessions in Akure in August.

YTF is a network partner for Africa Code Week, so we work to develop local partnerships with Ministries of Education, primary and secondary schools, universities and other non-profits to ensure as many students are equipped with coding skills as possible.

YTF strongly supports the mission of Africa Code Week as an avenue to empower future generations with the coding tools and skills they need to thrive in the 21st century workforce and become key actors of Africa’s economic development. In past years, YTF trained over 1,500 youth during Africa Code Week in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.

This year, we are raising the bar. 

YTF Nigeria has already contacted partnering institutions around the country to work with, and we’re pleased to have plans set to train over 1,500 youth in Nigeria alone. We will work with primary and secondary schools to teach students ages 8-17 basic Scratch skills. Youth ages 18-24 will be immersed in web technologies like HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP and SQL.

In August, I traveled to Akure, Ondo State with two other Master Trainers to participate in a Train-the-Trainer session. Our wealth of experience helped prepare other teachers from Ondo State who came to be trained to eventually lead students in the 2017 edition of Africa Code Week. Most of the teachers weren’t coders, but we were able to show them that their lack of experience wouldn’t be a barrier.

This training was critical to help trainers resolve some technical issues with their computers, install software, and train them on how to program with Scratch. By the end they were able to create simple animations and games with Scratch and felt satisfied with what they learned during the training.

The trainees will take this learning back to their communities for the code week, where they will organize and carry out the program in their schools, transferring the knowledge they gained to the students.

To continue reaching more teachers and students, we’re excited to send several other YTF Master Trainers to join the Train-the-Trainer session in Abuja later this month. 

Africa! Shall We Begin?

Africa Code Week instructor

We believe so much in the future of Africa, especially as youth build a better world with technology. We are committed to putting youth on pace with the demands of a future workforce – every day in YTF Academy, and when opportunities like Africa Code Week arise. Programming is one of the most valued skills in the 21st century and we believe it’s never too early or too late to learn programming. The time is now. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get our hands on a keyboard. 

Follow our journey to see how we provide these coding skills to youth in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda during Africa Code Week next month.

Nnamdi Iheme is a Software Design Lead and Master Trainer in YTF Academy. One of his responsibilities is running Africa Code Week for YTF-Nigeria.

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