Teaching Secondary School Girls To Code- My Experience

At the start of the year 2017, i made a year long Goal in which one of them was to be able to give back to the Tech community by laying impact on the lives of young girls around me, how I intended to achieve that, I had absolutely no idea.

Being an advocate for Girl Tech-education and Women-in-Tech ,together with my love for writing code, my participation in Women-In-Tech focused events (both as a participant and organizer) and running my Organisation “She Code Africa”. I choose to start up on one of the goals(stated above) by teaching and mentoring young girls to code (for free) starting out from those in secondary school, I specifically choose the secondary school category as i felt they made up a larger part of the group classified as the “Grass root”, Giving them an opportunity to learn to code at a young age gave greater and higher chances at them selecting a STEM related course in college/University, and in future have them take up more roles in STEM fields and finally bridging the gender gap in Technology.

Few days after coming up with the idea, had me celebrating my birthday(July 4th) where I released my pitch video and a call for action post. I had decided to name my Project “SUMMER PROJECT” since it was going to run all through the summer holiday.

Pitch Video

I initially made a plan to focus more on Public secondary schools in Lagos State, with reasons bordered on my research and personal experience as one who attended a Public secondary school in Lagos, most organizations or private bodies that held initiatives such as this always pushed more towards the private schools as they were the majorities who could afford to pay for it, that way leaving the students of public schools at more loss.

After several rounds of application steps with the Lagos state Education District IV, sadly i was denied access to hold the program in any of the public schools in the district, as the state organized an annual vocational training for their students every 3rd term holiday.

The rejection didn’t stop me but only propelled me to do more, I decided to make it open to any girl/parent/guardian who had interest in registering or participating, since i had already been getting pleas about making it open. In less than a week, I had 15 girls already registered on the form. Superb!

While applications were still ongoing, volunteers and sponsors were also showing up to the best of my delight. For the volunteers, it was quite exciting finding out the number of people who were interested in being facilitators and helping make an impact in the lives of the girls through programming. A day after i made the application form open, I had already gotten 12 applicants. Sweet!

Thanks to That Yoruba geek!, after going back and forth, we finally came up with a curriculum for the training that bordered on basic HTML, CSS and simple project ideas for the girls with w3schools as a guide. The training was scheduled to kick off on the 5th of August 2017 at SwitchNG (who sponsored us with their venue) and hold all through the four Saturdays for the month of August, so as to accommodate the work schedule of the facilitators/volunteers and also Summer Lesson which some of the girls were attending.

Registration for volunteers closed after the second week, with 30+ applying to be volunteers, using the following criteria : Location, Volunteer experience, Languages knowledgeable in, Ownership of a PC, Amount of time willing to be spent, I was able to bring down the number so as to be able to match at least a girl each to a facilitator to foster more interaction, interest and one-to-one learning.

TRAIN-THE-TRAINER:

I had a train-the-trainer session few hours before our first class so as to interact with the facilitators, to get to know them each and also to pass on valuable information regarding the girls and the training. This was necessary so as to avoid any type of confusion or error that might arise in the course of the training.


MENTORS:

Knowing the importance of having a mentor to guide one while still learning, I also included a mentorship session for the girls to be able to interact, ask questions, get answers, have any of their fears as regards the training and new journey into tech allayed, each session had me, their facilitators and some external mentors in it at different times. We had Nnenna John(Lead Instructor at UI School), Osioke Itseuwa(Community manager at Devcenter), and Dr Amina Sambo-Magaji [Acting National Coordinator of the Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE)] speak to the girls and facilitators together at different days with Osioke Itseuwa talking about Design for beginners whilst also encouraging the girls, Nnenna John and Dr Amina having their different sessions via video calls with the girls and facilitators.

Osioke Itseuwa having his mentor/design session with the girls

Four weeks went by in a flash, with the girls improving thoroughly on their Skills with HTML and CSS, the last week had them putting finishing touches to their projects with the help of the facilitators and also making a demo/presentation of their works later in the day.

LESSON:

Aside having a platform to reach out to more young ladies, carrying out this training, has given me a more deeper insight into organizing Code camps for younger ladies;

  1. These girls are still minors and therefore their safety was a major concern to the parents, I took up the task of personally placing calls to each parent/guardian right after sending mails that contained my contact details and little Bio, so as to reduce their fear, I also ensured each parent / guardian who dropped off their girl(s) on the first day signed a contact detail list to show they approved of their child’s presence at the training .
  2. It also taught me a different approach into helping young girls keep up their interest in learning, some of the girls at my first meeting with them had no interest whatsoever in learning as their parents had signed up on their behalf, I had to have small talk sessions with each of them right before classes and give them an idea of what they were about to learn, the fun way. This routine worked well, as from week 2 the girls enthusiasm had grown and had them expectant at each class.
  3. Only few of the girls had PC’s, those who didn’t have made use of that of the facilitators, this factor slowed down their learning rate, but I made sure the facilitators exchanged contact details or social media handles (whichever was preferable) with the girls to serve as a medium for questions or issues they might have while doing some self practice, and also for each of the facilitators to keep up with them.

METRICS:

  • 10 out of 20 girls(50%) who registered showed up for each training, the girls were grouped into classes according to their ages : Team Ruby(age 11 and below) — 2, Team Sass(age 12–15) — 5, Team Kotlin(age 16–18) — 3.
  • 12 out of 33 volunteers(33.36%) were picked for the training as facilitators, they all comprised of Software developers; Web Developers of different stacks and Mobile developers.
  • 9 out of the 12 facilitators were ladies(75%), which is an awesome thing seeing fellow ladies come out to want to build the girls in Tech. Having 3 male facilitators was also a great thing, this shows they encourage diversity in tech by taking part in the training and impacting the girls.

TESTIMONIAL:

“I am glad I made a one hour Skype call on Saturday 26th August 2017, to speak to the young girls being trained free on Web programming tools organized by Ada Nduka Oyom. The girls age ranges from 10 to 18 years from different academic levels. It is a good stage to encourage the girls to start thinking about starting a career in ICT or even just building up interest. I found the interactions with them very interesting as it allowed me into the minds of the young girls and gave me an opportunity to share my experience as a Tech Lady with them. I gave them some insightful tips and encouragement on the path of becoming female techies.The world is gradually becoming tech-driven with almost all careers depending on ICT to deliver. Also the number of women is over 50% of the entire world population thus, women need to be encouraged into technology to bridge the existing gap. I really commend the courageous organizer Ada for her selfless service in putting up such a program at an apt time. The initiative needs to be further encouraged and I am available to support in whatever way possible. Bravo!” — Dr Amina Sambo-Magaji

WHAT’S NEXT?
Seeing the impact it’s made on the girls with many of them excited to continue working on themselves, keeping in touch with each girl and tracking their progress tops my list and currently we are handling that via the different platforms exchanged during the training between the girls and facilitators. I also plan to make this training an annual event and with more support and a bigger team have them in different quarters of the year in different states and hopefully into different countries under my Organization She Code Africa. [i’m open to sponsorship talks :)].

For more pictures of the training, click here

One of the girls presenting her Project on the last day

THANK YOU:

  1. To all of the sponsors: SwitchNG for giving out their office space for the venue, Oo Nwoye, Nnenna John, Duru Ifeanyi Kingston, Oluwabukola Iji, Akande Blessing, who supported with different tokens for the training from Week 1 — Week 4.
  2. To each of the facilitators: Egwuenu Gift, Fredrick Mgbeoma, Owhe Samson, Ezeibe Sandra, Yemisi Obielodan, Tejumade Afonja, Temitope Fowotade, Egwu sarah, Bukola Bisuga, Seyi Adeleke, Yinusa Bisola, Opetunde Adepoju, who all took out time each week to come teach the girls.
  3. To each of the mentors: Dr Amina, Nnenna John, Osioke Itseuwa who took time out of their busy schedule to talk to the girls and encourage us all.
  4. To the Parents for trusting us with their girls all through the training.

This wouldn’t have been a success without your input, Muchas gracias!