Code4CT: Helping young girls get a start in tech

High school girls in Cape Town are taking advantage of a crowdfunded programme designed to help bring more women into IT. Through the Code for Cape Town holiday programme, university students spend three weeks tutoring grade 10 and 11 girls in coding, web design and pitching ideas to seniors. 

RA’EESA PATHER spoke to educators at Code4CT about their work and why they do it.

EmmaDicksEmma Dicks, founder and director of Code for Cape Town
I want to enable young women to create solutions to challenges we face in South Africa. I believe we need to change the narrative that careers in tech are just about sitting at a computer and earning good salaries. Code4CT teaches coding in a way that is appealing to girls. The curriculum is fun, creative and frames tech as a powerful tool for social impact. We start by identifying a real human need that needs solving, and then the girls learn to create and code the web as a means of building a solution. I would love to see South Africans becoming creators and not just consumers of the web. This is the focus of Code4CT, which teaches young girls to be able to build web content, thus moving them from passive consumers of the web to creators of the web. We say: “Don’t code for the sake of code; code to create solutions.”

Mashudu MuridiliMashudu Muridili, tutor at Code for Cape Town
Having done programming as part of my degree, I thought it would be good really to give back to the community through tutoring coding, and Code4CT was the perfect platform for that. Programming skills and basic IT skills are imperative since we live in a world where technology is increasing. Soon IT skills won’t be optional, but compulsory. I have seen how a lack of these skills hinders students’ success at a university level, especially those from poor communities. We are there to assist those students we can reach and hope that other people will see the importance of IT skills and initiate similar projects to cover places we can’t reach. We really need to change gender stereotypes in the coding profession. Girls are just as capable of doing the same work a guy does. Coding can help community organisations by making their information more accessible through mobi-sites; information on healthcare, education and tutoring programmes can be easily made available on mobi-sites as opposed to using apps, since many people in those communities don’t have smartphones.

Siphokazi MbataniSiphokazi Mbatani, tutor at Code for Cape Town
Funnily enough, I never thought about studying IT or computer science because it wasn’t something that fascinated me when I was younger. It was only when I started university last year that I realised the power it has to revolutionise and improve inefficient systems in our country. The skills are transferable to all sectors of life, whether it be healthcare or education. In Africa especially, we need to hone in on technological skills to develop and succeed. Like many professions, coding is male-dominated and there is no reason why it needs to be. From a young age, girls are given dolls and kitchen sets and we aren’t as exposed to the wonderful world of IT and computer sciences. That is why Code4CT is so important. In this technological age, more and more people have cellphones or some other form of internet access. Coding skills can help communities and organisations disseminate information in formats that are best accessible for the target market.

Tegan CrousTegan Crous, part-time volunteer at Code for Cape Town
Information technology runs the world. Every company needs it and the opportunities within the field are endless. People with IT skills are in demand, and have the potential to come up with their own innovative solutions to challenges and to create new products. I think gender stereotypes are changing already. More important to me is opening opportunities up to all people, and giving people equal footing so that they can compete in the job market. Having met the girls in the Code4CT programme, who are incredibly smart, confident, and passionate about their new-found coding skills, I am convinced that some of them will go far and contribute to the changing face of IT. Current technologies make the world so much smaller and have dramatically increased access to information and networks. I communicate with many community organisations through my work, and while they are working hard to make social changes, many of their communication systems are outdated. Most people, even in poorer communities, are using technology to communicate with each other and to access information – organisations should take this opportunity to connect with their networks (funders, beneficiaries, and volunteers).

To find out more and apply for the programme, visit the Code for Cape Town website.

– Featured image supplied by Code4SA.