“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.

 

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