Coding for Kids in Zimbabwe
“They can build games that are specific to the African culture, to the African heroes, so they can actually code the African heroes.” -Percy Ganga
Why Teach Kids to Code in Zimbabwe?
In Harare, Zimbabwe, Perseverance (Percy) Ganga, founder and director of the International Institute of Junior Coders and Engineers, O’Brien Rusike, and Tinashe Mulambo want to teach kids coding concepts.
In a country that faces many challenges, including health, economic, ecological, and political problems, Percy sees computer science education as the path to a better future: “In Africa, technology can bring solutions to some of the problems that we have had for so many years.” But finding those solutions requires Zimbabweans and other Africans to learn coding skills and problem solving skills.
As kids in Zimbabwe learn how to code, they are preparing to improve their future and their country. As Percy says, “We’re going to code our way out of poverty.”
Tinashe and O’Brien Teach Coding Skills
In Harare, Tinashe and O’Brien teach coding to kids at the Institute and in surrounding schools. They don’t have university degrees in computer science, but they have learned to code as adults. Tinashe told us why he feels that teaching kids to code is so valuable: “They are getting the advantage we didn’t have. We are bridging the gap.”
Devices like robots and drones help spark kids’ interest in coding: “In Africa [drones are] still new. When you teach them how to code a drone, it’s much more interesting to them,” O’Brien told us.
Using online courses like Tynker helps kids learn programming languages, according to O’Brien: “Starting with block coding, you understand the if-else statements and how to use loops. Then when you go to HTML, it’s easier to do.”
Tinashe explained how coding teaches kids academic subjects: “Tynker helps kids with engineering, physics, math, animation, and science. When you are coding, you are dealing with angles.”
The Next Generation of Technology Creators
As kids program, Percy feels that they are not just learning programming skills, but also learning how to make coding games and become creators. He told us: “Instead of kids seeing smartphones as toys that they can play with, we want them to understand that they can actually build games, just as the other kids in the U.S. are doing.”
Percy hopes that kids in Zimbabwe will use their skills with computer programs to make games about their culture: “They can build games that are specific to the African culture, to the African heroes, so they can actually code the African heroes.”
Dylan and Christian are two elementary age students at the Institute. Christian is eight years old and wants to be a programmer when he grows up. He told us: “I like to make games and design characters. I think it’s important to teach children how to learn programming so when they grow up there will be many more engineers.”
Dylan, who is 7 and wants to be a software engineer, added: “I like to create games, apps, and all sorts of things. Tynker teaches us to never give up. You have to keep trying until you get the chance to finish it.”
We’re so glad we got to speak with Percy, Tinashe, O’Brien, Dylan, and Christian about how they are using online resources like Tynker. As they learn block coding and real world, text-based programming languages, kids in Harare will be able to help Zimbabwe. As Percy puts it, if more people in Zimbabwe learn technology skills, there’s a chance for a brighter future ahead: “We won’t have to find solutions outside our borders. We can find solutions inside our borders.”
Read our previous article about Blue Ribbon Educator Denise Wright, who empowers students through programming!