by Mujeeb Abdulwasiu
Shaman Adewara was 9 when he completed a three-week summer boot camp, organized by KidsThatCode (KTC) initiative. During the bootcamp he learnt coding and programming languages. Adewara who is a primary 5 pupil and hails from Kwara State says he wants to become a tech engineer.
“I’ve always had a thirst for learning tech because my ambition is to be a tech engineer in the future,” he said excitedly in a brief interview.
But before Adewara enrolled in the KidsThatCode initiative, he had been exposed to computer studies classes at his school, Prime Montessori school, Lagos, which according to him is wholly on a basic and extreme elementary level.
“All the things I learned at KidsThatCode, we weren’t taught anything like that at my school. All I learned was basic knowledge of the keyboard, mouse, and other components of the computer. But when my mum told me software engineering is beyond these concepts, I began having an extra interest to learn other things beyond my classes at school, “ he said.
The Economic Commission for Africa has indicated that the children’s ability to access technology skills is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for development and equipping them for their everyday life. Unfortunately, students in Nigerian primary and secondary schools do not learn any technological skills. According to them, 99% of the schools only teach elementary knowledge of computer science and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
Desirous of enhancing his skills, Adewara’s parents enrolled him with KidsThatCode in June.
“My parents enrolled and sponsored my summer boot camp at KidsThatCode, they provided me with all the needed learning materials including a laptop and data subscription to stay online all through. Alongside 8 others, we were trained on how to build a website using Java and python coding languages,” he said.
For four years now, KidsThatCode has been active in introducing coding languages to primary and secondary school students all over Nigeria. The initiative’s mission is to integrate coding and programming languages into Nigeria’s basic educational curriculum.
“Nigeria’s basic educational curriculum is not wide enough to cover tech education, so our initiative encourages kids to start coding early. We are trying to integrate it into the school’s curriculum,” Adejoke Haastrup, co-founder of KTC said in an interview.
Speaking about the operational method of recruiting students and executing activities, Haastrup said parents find their website online through their ads and get in touch with them for possible enrollment of their wards into the initiative.
“Some of these students, and their parents find our website online. We also run ads, and we get referrals from other parents.
“We execute our activities in two phases, registered students have the option to choose between; a weekend ‘book a session that runs during school sessions and a summer boot camp that runs during their long vacation. Both phases are being conducted virtually with a tutor/mentor assigned to each child” she added.
So far, the initiative has introduced about 2000 kids to tech since its started operations in 2017.
“Some of them that attended our summer BootCamp are now studying in different higher institutions to be software engineers. I can speak of two who are now studying in Alt school and Semicolon Africa respectively, both schools of data and software engineering. We also have some here as community managers helping other kids learn”.
Just like Adewara, Abdulrahman Salam, another young student is part of the 2000 kids that have benefitted from the KTC initiative. Abdulrahman, 17, has had a stint of what Adewara learned for three months during the Covid lockdown in 2020. As a secondary school student, he told Social Voices that he enjoyed what he learned from the initiative largely due to its simplicity, practicality, and professionalism.
”It was a great experience I had, compared to what we learned in our computer classes at school. KTC taught me more practicals and I found it very easy to follow along throughout the whole session. I learned how to code and build websites with languages like Java and Python.”
Abdulrahman adds that his active participation during the training earned him an award as one of the best students, an award which allowed his retention as a community manager at the initiative to train younger students.
How important is it?
The Revolution of technology is rapidly changing the world, and ushering in a transformation that will have a radical impact on job creation. The statistics and data churned out yearly by different organizations across the world can attest to this fact.
In 2018 World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report revealed that 2 million jobs are expected to come from the computer, mathematical, architecture, and engineering fields by 2025, much as it is expected to alter jobs. This report further predicts that 46 percent of all work activities in Nigeria are susceptible to automation.
To tackle future technological unemployment, experts say the KTC initiative is highly imperative for the younger generations, and that concerned authorities are indebted to provide technological infrastructure for future generations and allow them to learn how to create new technologies that will innovatively solve everyday problems.
“Illiteracy is now beyond being able to read and write. Once computer education is out of it, that person is illiterate. Very few of the schools that have access to computers also have access to the internet and that is a very big problem.” Says Olu Jegede, a professor at the Institute of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University.
Heaps of Limitations
KTC’s activities have gained a lofty achievement in its integration drive and attracting increasing interest from Nigerian private schools. But Haastrup said that lack of access and engagement with policymakers and political stakeholders on the official implementation of code teaching in students’ curriculum is taking a toll on their goal. She noted that their activities have influenced some private schools to inoculate the program into their curriculum, but many other schools, especially public schools, have not.
“I understand that policymakers and political stakeholders have the influence and political mandate to officially influence our integration goal, but we have not been able to engage them. For now, we are still speaking to schools about it, it is a gradual thing. Soon we will engage the government and policymakers for proper implementation,” She said.
She adds that the rising cost of devices and gadgets is also restricting many of their potential beneficiaries. According to her, some parents are really interested in getting their kids into the initiative but can’t afford the luxury of laptops, data subscriptions, and other logistics.
“It is not easy to get people or organizations willing to sponsor kids into tech. The cost of learning logistics such as laptops and data subscriptions is rising and it is shying us away from our potential beneficiaries.
“For now, to enhance quality and effective learning, we only engage kids who can have their parents sponsor them throughout the program,” she added.
Haastrup said the KidsThat Code is looking forward to solving the limitation by partnering with charity organizations and foundations in its subsequent projects.
This story was produced in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.