A Moonshot Goal in Africa

Based in Nigeria, Code2Schools wants every child to learn how to read and write code

The Scratch Team
The Scratch Team Blog
7 min readOct 5, 2015


Students at SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Gwagwalada listen intently for their introduction to CS First and Scratch programming.

By My Nguyen

Cameroonian native Tabot Arreytambe graduated from high school in 2004 at the top of his class at the Bilingual Grammar School in Molyko, Buea. Preparing to enter University as a first-year student, Tabot wanted to study computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering, yet his University did not offer any of these subjects as degree-granting programs. Apart from the life sciences — which he had no interest in — the only programs that came close were mathematics and physics.

So, Tabot opted for a physics major and a minor in computer science. As an undergraduate, he recalls hating his computer science courses and barely managing to pass them. Part of his displeasure had to do with the lack of resources available.

“Sometimes, six or more students had to cluster around a single computer in order to write code. I have always been a hands-on person, and this did not pair well with my learn-by-doing approach to learning.”

After graduating from University, Tabot still wanted to pursue computer science and looked into available Masters programs. There was only one problem — in 2007, computer science was still relegated to a minor department in African universities.

Determined to continue his education, Tabot returned to his alma mater to attain a MSc. in physics. He joined the Laboratory of Research on Advanced Materials and Nonlinear Science, headed by seasoned researcher Dr. Dikande Alain Moise. Yet something still did not feel right — eighteen months into the program, with only six months left before acquiring his Masters degree, Tabot left program to try to figure out what he really wanted to do.

Realizing that theoretical physics no longer satisfied him, Tabot retreated to the library. Here, as he worked his way through books on computer programming and he began his foray into the world of computers and computer science.

Now Tabot resides in Nigeria, Abuja, where he serves as the Deputy Head of Department for Computer Science at the Nigerian Turkish Nile University. He is also the Founder and CEO of the Edu Teens Science Development Foundation, which aims to rewrite the “African narrative” with early exposure to STEM and computer science.

Given his personal journey, Tabot hopes to provide universal access to computer science for young people in Africa. Recently, Tabot worked with Google CS First to launch a pilot program to teach Scratch programming in Nigeria.

The Scratch Foundation spoke to Tabot to learn more about the program and his vision for a brighter future for Africa’s next generation.

Tell us about your foundation, the Edu Teens Science Development Foundation.

The Edu Teens Science Development (ETSD) Foundation is a STEM and computer science provider based in Nigeria, driven by a passion to promote STEM/CS subjects through innovative ways that capture the learners’ attention, emphasize relevance, and increase motivation and participation in these fields. Our target group consists mainly of secondary school students between the ages of 12 to 18, with a special focus on female minorities.

What motivated you to start the Foundation?

Many wonderful things have happened for me since I delved into the world of computers, but sadly, this is not the story for many African young people. Unemployment rates are still at an all-time high. According to UNICEF:

  • 40 percent of Nigerian children aged 6–11 do not attend any primary school, with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls.
  • Despite a significant increase in net enrollment rates in recent years, it is estimated that about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school, and many do not complete the primary cycle.
  • 30 percent of pupils drop out of primary school, and only 54 percent move on to junior secondary schools. Reasons for this low completion rate include child labor, economic hardship, and early marriage for girls.
  • More than 200,000 new teachers are needed in Nigeria to ensure that there is one primary level teacher for no more than 40 learners.
  • Nigeria alone is home to an estimated 10.5 million out-of-school children.

These debilitating statistics, as well as my own personal struggles through through harsh economic realities, propelled me to seek a solution to address some of these issues for the next generation.

Tell us about the Code2Schools and Google CS First programs.

The Code2Schools program is supported by ETSD and was born out of a desire to prepare the entrepreneurs and innovators of tomorrow by giving them knowledge and skills that will ignite creativity within them to create solutions for Africa’s problems. Our overarching goal is to ensure that every child between the ages of 12 to 18 knows how to read and write code.

It may sound like long shot to some, but to us it is a “moonshot” goal. It keeps us extremely motivated. It has also helped to attract other big picture-thinkers, who see things not only in terms of days and months but also in decades. In fact, I believe that it was our big, hairy, audacious goals and grit that compelled Google to partner with us on the pilot of the CS First program in Nigeria.

Google CS First is a free program that aims to increase student access and exposure to computer science (CS) education through after-school, in-school, and summer programs. All of the “clubs” are run by teachers and/or community volunteers. Students learn programming by watching video tutorials, then transfer those lessons into projects using Scratch. Clubs are designed around themes to attract students with varied interests, such as Storytelling, Fashion & Design, Music & Sound, Game Design, Art, just to name a few.

Because of numerous similarities, we decided to adopt the Google CS First curriculum into the Code2Schools curriculum.

Why do you think Scratch resonates with young people?

It is fun, entertaining, and engaging. Young people love games, stories, social media, art, fashion. . . Scratch enables them not only to be consumers of these things but also creators.

SOS Hermann Gmeiner students pose with their completed CS First Passports. Students had the option of creating Fashion & Design or Storytelling projects.

How accessible is computer science in Africa, particularly where your Foundation operates?

In my opinion, computer science is still very much at a fledgling stage in Africa. Access to computer science has improved beyond what it was in 2004 when I entered the University, but we still have a long, long way to go. The public education system needs a lot of improvement. However, some private companies are beginning to collaborate with secondary schools and Universities to establish fully-equipped computer laboratories and e-learning centers. Also, on the bright side, as of 2014:

  • Nigeria was ranked number 8 for Internet usage globally with an Internet penetration rate of 37.59 percent from 0.06 percent in the year 2000.
  • Mobile-broadband penetration in Africa as a whole reached close to 20 percent in 2014, up from 2 percent in 2010.
  • By 2020, 70 percent of domestic and international jobs will require core STEM skills.

All these developments present excellent opportunities. For these reasons, the ETSD Foundation has strategically positioned itself as a gateway through which bright young minds can prepare for the future.

Why is learning how to program and code important, even for students who do not plan to pursue computer science in the future?

I will like to borrow the words of two of the most respected innovators of our time, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft: “Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.”

Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple: “Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”

In these two statements, the word “think” is mentioned. Everybody “thinks,” irrespective of the field in which they find themselves. Learning how to program, even at the most basic level, helps sharpen the thinking process. Learning how to code stretches a person’s ability to solve many problems in life.

For example, what’s an algorithm? It is a sequence of instructions or a set of rules that are followed to complete a task. This task can be anything, so long as you can give clear instructions for it. Whether it’s making a smoothie, baking a banana cake, handling a court case, performing surgery, and so on, you need algorithms.

What skills or lessons do you hope those participating in your clubs and programs gain?

CS is a discipline that emphasizes persistence in problem solving — a skill that is applicable across disciplines, driving job growth, and innovation across all sectors of the workforce. So, in a sense, students participating in our clubs are being prepared to tackle some of the problems that have kept Africa in the dark for decades.

They will also become creators and not just consumers of technology. They will have the courage to try new things and thus become more confident when using computers. Our programs also instill in them as sense of community and collaboration, as they work with their peers to solve real-life problems.

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to learn how to code?

Believe that you can do it, and you will. You just have to be determined to work hard.

Procrastination is the thief of time, so don’t wait until tomorrow to start, begin today. If you are just beginning, I suggest starting with Scratch. Also, remember that you will likely make a lot of errors as you code. It’s a common experience, so don’t fuss about it. No application is written from start to finish without errors. Patience is required in the debugging process, so get loads of it.

Lastly, stay hungry and be willing to learn from everybody, no matter how small. I learn from my students. There are also a lot of online forums where a problem you have been grappling with has already been solved by someone in the community. Get in there and make use of it!

My Nguyen is Communications Specialist for the Scratch Foundation.



The Scratch Team
The Scratch Team Blog

Scratch is a programming language and the world’s largest online community for kids. Find us at scratch.mit.edu.