Africode’s mission is to educate, inspire, and equip Africans with the skills necessary to write code that technically and positively grows Africa. Ayiba’s editor-in-chief, Eyitemi Popo, talks with Africode CEO, Adebisi Oje, to find out about this non-profit initiative.
Adebisi Oje was inspired to start Africode after her brother was discouraged from studying computer science by his university advisor. Adebisi understood the advisor’s reasoning because she knows firsthand how many Africans fall out of the computer science major due to the steep learning curve they encounter when they begin at American universities. “Of all the Africans that started in computer science with me, I was the only one that graduated with the degree” says Adebisi.
This past July, Africode launched its pilot program, which directly addresses that issue. The summer program was an initiative to promote computer science and engineering education amongst Nigerian high school students in an attempt to ease the learning curve when they get to higher education.
Adebisi, who works at Barclays in New York, partnered with her friend Alex Tsado, a Goldman Sachs technology analyst, to bring the initiative to life. They plan to hold yearly programs that teach the basic principles of computer programming to students aged ten to nineteen. The week-long program costs N30,000 (about $200) and was sponsored by The Digital Bridge Institute and Infosoft Nigeria ltd.
DAY 1: Students who had no idea what computer programming was at the beginning of the day, created three mobile applications by the end of the day.
DAY 2: The Africode students prove to be very creative! Adeolu Abegunde presented on how she was able to create a calculator in less than two hours; students created a game they installed on their phones, and also worked in teams to solve challenging and puzzling exercises.
DAY 3: Africode students put a pause on coding for a day and explored engineering. Adeola, Eniola, and Nimat successfully built their robots in a little over an hour. Adekunle shared how technology can be created to stop the current Boko Haram situation in Nigeria.
DAY 4: Students created amazing engineering projects from items they found at home. Adeola created a well from an empty carton of drink, a pen, and water. Adekunle created a spectroscope using an empty box and a CD-rom. Adeolu inflated a balloon using vinegar and baking powder. Students challenged themselves by programming their robots to move along specified paths.
DAY 5: Africode students took an exam to decide winners of the iPads and Samsung tablet. Adeola, Adekunle, and Eniola took the prizes home. Students also continued with robot challenges and competed in the spaghetti marshmallow game.
Adebisi found that although the program was short this year, the students’ growth from day one to five was tremendous and they exceeded her expectations. “The thing about kids, as compared to adults, is that they don’t mind failing.” She was very impressed with how the kids reacted to failure and kept learning through their struggles. The level of creativity exhibited by the students also surprised Adebisi. “The calculator the children built, I installed on my phone. They thought about the layout and every single detail. In fact, I threw mine away after I saw theirs.”
When asked about the challenges of running this program in Nigeria, Adebisi took a deep sigh and paused. “It was tough trying to set up a company internationally. Nigerians like in-person communication as opposed to email or phone calls, so marketing was a major challenge. When I arrived in Nigeria we only had six registered students, but in the week I was there I did a lot of in-person marketing and we eventually got twenty-four students.”
Other challenges were sponsorship, Boko Haram, and the Ebola outbreak. “The school we marketed to most was impacted by the June bomb blast in Abuja, so parents were afraid and we only ended up with one student from that school. The current security crisis was also a major road blocker other ways. We had two instructors from Stanford, one from Columbia, and one from NYU. Three of the four ended up not making the trip.”
Adebisi says despite all the challenges, Africode has learned a lot from their pilot program. Next year’s program will run longer and offer scholarships so that more students can access the opportunity. She also hopes to bring a few of the top students from the Nigerian program to a U.S. college for a few weeks in the summer to further develop their skills.
Find out more about Africode and how you can support them here.